Another meaningful outing
from Laura Lippman
In her standalone novels, Laura Lippman has brought a voice to characters not often found in crime fiction -- young women trying to find their place in the world despite the odds against them. Lippman's novels deal with questions of self-esteem, self-discovery and self-love, but her books are definitely not chick lit, though they often veer into sophisticated women's fiction.
Lippman's mesmerizing "And When She Was Good" delves deep into a suburban madam's life to show the humanity and motives of a woman who felt that line of work was her only option. "And When She Was Good" works well as story about choices, sexism and unconditional love. Without glamorizing or judging prostitution, Lippman delivers an insightful character study of a woman who has learned self-preservation at all costs.
Heloise Lewis believed she had few choices in life. As a teenager, she left a complicated home only to be abandoned by the boyfriend she ran away with and, finally, ending up with Val Deluca, a pimp and drug dealer. Heloise was uneducated and naïve, but she was smart and a quick learner. When Val went to prison for murder, Heloise built a business using the only skill she believed she had.
Her call-girl service, based in Baltimore, turns a profit. She pays taxes -- the IRS believes she is a lobbyist -- and offers her employees a good medical plan. She also is a devoted mother to her son, Scott, for whom she would do anything.
Heloise's devotion is about to be challenged, because Val may be released on a legal technicality. Her former pimp doesn't know that Heloise's testimony led to his conviction, nor that he is Scott's father. Heloise fears for her and Scott's safety when another "suburban madam" is killed in a nearby town.
Lippman skillfully explores the delicate balance that Heloise must maintain for her life built on secrets. Through the years, Heloise has developed into a confident woman, fueled by the unconditional love she has for her child. Yet she is just beginning to realize that her options in life are limitless.
Despite Heloise's occupation, Lippman avoids prurient clichés for a fascinating character study about a multi-faceted woman.
This review first appeared in the Sun Sentinel in Florida.