Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
A big disappointment for me. The beginning of the book promises an offbeat, unique, psychological mystery. We are told that two fifth-grade girls murder a baby. However, the promise, the tension, and the mystery slowly dissolve in a flood of lengthy and completely irrelevant characterizations of marginal characters. The book would be much better if it were cut by about 60% in volume.
Out of the four main characters, Helen, Alice, and Ronnie are quite skillfully drawn and psychologically believable. In fact, Helen is perhaps one of the most interesting characters I have encountered in years. I would like the book to be more about her, and about the girls. Cynthia, the grieving mother, is also vividly drawn, but she seems more of a repulsive caricature of a terminally vain and ultimately evil creature than a real person. Her grief is nullified by her self-centeredness. The characters of the detectives are not well built and they just seem to be devices to move the plot.
I am not sure whether it was Ms. Lippman's intention, but there is no sympathy in her writing towards the characters, no compassion. Maybe I am weird, but I like an author to have at least a bit of a human touch, some understanding of the fact that weakness is the essence of the human nature. Thus, for me, "Every Secret Thing" hopelessly fails as a novel, even if it barely passes as a mystery.
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