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Every Secret Thing    by Laura Lippman order for
Every Secret Thing
by Laura Lippman
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

When the author of a popular series like Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan Baltimore PI mysteries decides to write a book without the series character, fans get nervous. Sometimes these standalones are wonderful (e.g. Harlan Coben's recent Tell No One). But often they are disappointing and only a pale shadow of the author's usual offerings. Lippman fans can relax and enjoy her new standalone Every Secret Thing, which is even better than her Tess Monaghan novels. Lippman uses her long-time experience as a Baltimore journalist to advantage in making the city and its environs almost another character, warts and all.

The story starts seven years in the past when 11-year old Ronnie and Alice leave a friend's birthday party in a huff and walk home, something they are really too young to do alone. Along the way they encounter an apparently abandoned baby carriage with a baby in it. What happens to the baby - and the part that each of the pair plays in events - is the crux of the story. It then fast forwards to the present, when Ronnie and Alice are released at eighteen from juvenile prison to re-enter an unwelcoming society. When another baby disappears shortly afterwards, the girls come under suspicion once more.

Lippman excels at painting vivid characters, from the troubled and bewildered Alice and Ronnie, to Alice's self-absorbed single mother Helen. Alice's initial public defender Sharon never really believed in her guilt. There is the earnest young policewoman Nancy, an ambitious reporter named Mira who is willing to break the rules to get a story, and the sad, obsessed mother Cynthia who never recovered from her baby's death. The usual big city problems of racism and poverty are skillfully blended in to enrich the plot.

The narration jumps back and forth among the stories of these different characters, expertly drawing the reader in as it builds to a truly surprising conclusion. This standalone Lippman book, Every Secret Thing, is really a standout!

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