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And When She Was Good    by Laura Lippman order for
And When She Was Good
by Laura Lippman
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Laura Lippman writes something of an anti-heroine into her latest thriller, And When She Was Good. And though I enjoyed the mystery very much, I found it hard to like high class suburban madam Heloise, even with her tough back story. She's hard and controlling, not terribly engaging.

Heloise raises her son Scott in suburban Maryland, while running the Women's Full Employment Network. This nonprofit boutique lobbying firm is a front for a high class escort business, in which Heloise participates fully. As And When She Was Good opens, a Suburban Madam (connected to her past) has been murdered. Readers gradually learn her back story as her current problems escalate, with betrayals around every corner.

Born Helen, she was abused by her father, verbally and physically. She ran away with a loser and ended up with Val, a brilliant and manipulative pimp/psychopath, also the unknowing father of her child. Val killed a man and has been serving a life sentence since Helen betrayed him to the authorities. He doesn't know that she turned him in - or does he? Now it seems that questions about the testimony in his trial might get Val released.

Heloise faces plenty of business problems. One of her employees, Sophie, has contracted AIDS. Sophie is looking for workers' compensation, and is blackmailing Heloise, in collusion with her accountant. The cops are questioning her about her prison visits to Val, who it seems was also visited by the murder victim. And there are more killings. Heloise badly needs an exit strategy for herself and Scott.

You'll need to read the novel to find out how the madam solves these seemingly insurmountable problems in her life. But she does, while finally facing her own demons, being honest with herself and others, coming to terms with her past, and achieving a small degree of redemption. And When She Was Good is an engrossing read, very well done.

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