out of 5
Review by Julie
This book is not part of Lippman's excellent Tess Monaghan series, but because I like her writing, I pulled it off the shelf. It's a stand-alone story in which a woman is found wandering along the Baltimore beltway after having been involved in a car accident. When picked up by the police she "accidentally" (you're just not sure) identifies herself as the younger of two sisters abducted in the 1970s and not seen since. From there on out the race is on to try to identify the woman. Is she really who she says she is? What information might she provide that could solve the case? Where is her sister? Who abducted them, and how were two girls taken simultaneously from a crowded shopping mall on a Saturday? Should her mother, who has been living in torment after the loss of her daughters, the break-up of her marriage and subsequent death of her ex-husband, and the utter loss of hope, be brought in (from Mexico, where she now lives) and dragged through it all again when the would-be Heather Bethany might well be an imposter guilty of identity theft and attempted financial fraud?
The chapters alternate back and forth between social workers, police, and others trying to sort the woman's identity in the present and the family dynamic and events leading up to and beyond the girls' abduction. All I can say is that the Creep Factor of the girls' dad is positively off the charts. If I were either of these girls (or their mother!), I'd have definitely gotten them away from him.
The story was incredibly complex, with interesting twists and turns--so very much more than the simple is she? or isn't she? scenario. I must also say that it was emotionally exhausting to read. The ending was interesting, possibly realistic (I have my qualms), and extremely provocative and unsettling. While I wouldn't want to read books like this all the time--it reminded me of a better-written James Patterson--I'm not unhappy that I read it. (I am, however, incredibly homesick for the places described in the book and author's note given that I find myself 1,200 miles from there.) Lippman's a great writer, and I am happy to have joined her on this exploration of different sorts of writing, events, characters, and emotions. Now, let's get back to Tess as I couldn't go to sleep after finishing this unsettling book.