Sadly, I don't think that I'm going to do justice to the book with this review. I am sitting on my screen porch, drinking a fairly large glass of wine, after a very long day involving at least one headache. However, this is my free time away from the kids and I am determined to be productive for at least part of it. So, in case this devolves into gobbledy gook let me say at the outset...this is a very good book. I liked it a lot and I think you will too.
The plot is intriguing. Eliza Benedict is a 38 year old happily married stay at home mom, living in the D.C. suburbs. She and her family have just moved back to the US after an extended stay in London. One day she recieves a letter from an inmate on death row, and we learn that she was kidnapped at age 15 and held against her will for almost 40 days by a young man named Walter Bowman. He was a serial killer, and she was the only one of his victims who survived. Walter wants to talk to her before he is put to death.
The chapters alternate between the present day and the summer when Eliza was 15. Some are told from her point of view, some from Walter's and some from the mother of one of the other victims. All of the characters are fully realized and together present a fascinating picture of what happened. I thought Lippman did an amazing job with Walter. He was the perfect mixture of narcissism, innocence and evil; I think she created the first realistic version of a serial killer that I've ever read. He came off of the page like a living, breathing person--someone anyone would know. That person who is just a little bit off, he almost fits in, but not quite. He wasn't pure evil, like a character in a Stieg Larsson novel, but someone you actually felt a little sorry for, and in some way, understood and empathized with, even though they were doing something reprehensible.
The character of Eliza was more difficult in some ways for me. She is (admittedly to even herself) passive, quiet and doesn't want to cause trouble. She is basically the anti-Tess Monaghan--the heroine of Lippman's long standing detective series. But I grew to love her, and I think Lippman did a wonderful job making her believable from a teenager to an adult. She was a passive, quiet kid--that's what enabled her to survive her ordeal. It makes sense that she would hold on to those aspects of herself into adulthood. I particularly loved the portrayal of Eliza's relationship with her two children. The characters of both kids were spot-on and how they interacted with each other and their parents was great.
This was a convincing and fast paced read. I have liked Lippman's Tess Monaghan series for a long time but I've been afraid to read her stand alone novels because I didn't think they would be as good (see Martha Grimes). But I shouldn't have worried. I thought this was actually much better than her detective series. Everything about it was more mature, and better crafted. I think she is becoming a better writer with every book.