She says she’s afraid of not being afraid.

“She” is Laura Lippman, talking about her new novel, Dream Girl.

I usually read every book in Lippman’s Baltimore-based crime series; I decided to read this out-of-series (non-genre) one as well, based primarily on Ed Levine’s interview with her on his Special Sauce podcast. (If you follow the link and get impatient, be aware that discussion of Dream Girl doesn’t start until 30 minutes in.) It’s still Baltimore, and there is even a cameo appearance by Tess Monaghan, but otherwise this is a mainstream novel, not a genre story.

You may wonder whether there’s a reason for a crime novelist to be interviewed on a food show. I did, at least. But never mind—Lippman is more than a crime novelist just as Special Sauce is about more than food. Although there are definitely crimes in this story, for the most part it’s a psychological study of the protagonist, a narcissistic novelist named Gerry Anderson. And then there are the other characters, but I can’t say much about them lest I commit a spoiler. What I can say is that Anderson is a deeply compelling but definitely not likable character, so you’ll want to keep reading/listening just to find out more about him even if not to advance the plot. (I listened to the audiobook version, narrated very effectively by Jason Culp.) Lippman says she wanted to write a horror story without any trace of the supernatural, and she has succeeded in doing so. It’s a horror story only in the psychological sense. Apparently it was inspired by a Stephen King novel that I haven’t read, but I can say that must also have been inspired in part by Alfred Hitchcock. And if you have any experience with creative writing classes, either as a teacher or a student, or any experience with the publishing world, a lot will resonate with you.

Normally I believe that a book speaks itself, but in this case I need to quote the Special Sauce interview, in which Lippman says this:

I’m interested in hierarchies, in the way people seem dead-set on knowing who’s up, who’s down, how high they are on the ladder.

Read the book (or, better yet, listen to the audiobook), to get the full context for this remark. And listen to the Ed Levine interview.

Categories: Books