I gobbled down Laura Lippman's upcoming 'The Most Dangerous Thing' last night and, though I have never been disappointed by any of her books, I am always surprised to put one down and think, "Wow. That may be her best yet." I don't know why I'm surprised, either. It's pretty much been happening with each successive novel of hers that I read. And this one continues the trend.
I'm not sure how she does it, but Lippman has a special skill for capturing the darkness of childhood. Not just the darkness that we encounter as children, but the darkness that is within us. The casual cruelty of the childhood clique. The easy disposal of the friend who was once closer than a sibling. The uncaring disregard for anyone outside your immediate orbit. Somehow Lippman captures it all on the page in a way that brings back those feelings with painful clarity. Or maybe that's just me.
That's not to say that she doesn't also manage to capture the magic of childhood or that adults are pushed to the background or let off easily. I don't think it's possible for her as a writer to let anyone off easily, especially not the reader. 'The Most Dangerous Thing', like most of Lippman's standalone novels, is about secrets and lies and their ability to not only influence events, but their seeming knack for rising to the surface just when you thought they'd stay buried forever.
And there are lots of little "Easter Eggs" for long-time Lippman fans. (Hiya, Tess!) Though they could seem too clever or intrusive, they instead serve to make the world her characters inhabit even more claustrophobic and lacking in places to hide.