Based on her acclaimed, multi-award-nominated short story "Scratch a Woman," And When She Was Good is the powerfully gripping, intensely emotional story of a suburban madam, a convicted murderer whose sentence is about to be overturned, and the child they will both do anything to keep.
Ms. Lippman’s stand-alone novels have been much more nuanced and interesting than her Monaghan books. And When She Was Good is the latest case in point ... there’s nothing that strains credibility in Ms. Lippman’s view of Heloise’s profession, and a lot is observed ... Heloise is especially well drawn ... Ms. Lippman is too smart to wallow in the obvious. She is less concerned with the psychology that would draw Helen to a father figure than she is with Val’s Pygmalion role in Helen/Heloise’s transformation ... And When She Was Good is a steady, surprising tale about how Heloise adapts when her business is put in jeopardy. It would spoil this story to describe the warning signs, but Heloise is quick to pick up on every little whiff of peril ... Call it sustainability: this book gives Heloise power, versatility and the gift of foresight, all of which serve her well in a crisis.
The story of a bright girl, verbally and physically abused by her father, who runs off with a heroin addict and ends up as a prostitute may seem unoriginal, but Lippman’s skill with atmosphere, character and suspense make Helen/Heloise’s story interesting and fresh. The only false note may be that Heloise is allegedly forgettable; an impeccably groomed, expensively dressed red-haired female lobbyist is unlikely to blend into the Annapolis woodwork, no matter how unmemorable her face ... Lippman has given us the elements of a great crime novel: a gritty story, vivid characters and a fast-moving, twisting plot. She has also mixed in some astute commentary on crime, hypocrisy and human nature — as well as on Maryland supermarkets.
Meet the quirky but troubled protagonist of Laura Lippman's novel, And When She Was Good, which looks at women's issues and at the sorry effects of murder, mayhem and drugs. It's not chick-lit; nor is it crime fiction. It's a little of each ... Lippman wraps her latest stand-alone novel in a who-done-it plot, but she's mainly concerned with such subjects as stay-at-home moms, the legalization of prostitution, abusive men and complex mother-daughter relationships. She examines the power of maternal love, specifically how a woman's love for her son can help her overcome dire circumstances, and glances at the role of siblings in a blended family ... Although her latest expands her traditional focus on crime, it succeeds for the most part primarily because of Lippman's nimble style and her delight in irony and inside jokes.