The crime fiction book discussion at my library had Laura Lippman’s stand alone novel, I’d Know You Anywhere, as its monthly selection. Lippman is one of our group’s favorite contemporary crime novelist and we find her works are always discussable. This proved true for this novel which was published in 2010.
The basic storyline of the book is that Eliza Benedict is a thirty-eight year old mother of two living in Bethesda, Maryland, who wants nothing more than to be normal. This is a challenge to a woman who is the only surviving victim of a serial killer named Walter Bowman who committed his crimes twenty years prior to the start of this novel. Now, after two decades of appeals have run out, Walter is about to be put to death by the state and he decides to reach out to Eliza one last time.
The question becomes: what does he want? Perhaps even more important is the question: what does Eliza want? The strains in her life are enormous. The fact that she carries such tremendous survivor guilt is one of the issues that haunts the reader as well. We want to be Eliza’s ally but not if she is truly guilty of committing a horrendous act of moral turpitude.
The author is able to play with time by jumping back and forth between the actual criminal events surround Eliza and her current life of regret. It deals with big issues like capital punishment and small issues like how to satisfy the demands of your children. Parenting is a central issue in the novel and I like how this sentence sums up the dilemma: “She knew there was no spell, no magic, that could keep a child a child, or shield a child from the world at large.”
This psychological suspense novel is more than just a recounting of a past crime. Its literary merit is earned by the way the author deals with the long lasting effects of the crime on both the sole perpetrator and the many victims left in the wake of his crimes.
If you are looking for a comparison story or a read-alike, I would suggest this novel has flavors of Thomas Harris’s Silence of the Lambs and Minette Walter’s The Sculptress. I think this is the type of book that should not be restricted to groups who only read crime fiction but could be discussed by all groups interested in books with a strong literary merit.