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What the Dead Know | [Laura Lippman]

What the Dead Know

Thirty years ago two sisters disappeared from a shopping mall. Their bodies were never found, and those familiar with the case have always been tortured by these questions: How do you kidnap two girls? Who or what could have lured the two sisters away from a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon without leaving behind a single clue or witness? Now a clearly disoriented woman involved in a rush-hour hit-and-run claims to be the younger of the long-gone Bethany sisters.
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Publisher's Summary

Thirty years ago, two sisters disappeared from a shopping mall. Their bodies were never found, and those familiar with the case have always been tortured by these questions: How do you kidnap two girls? Who or what could have lured the two sisters away from a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon without leaving behind a single clue or witness?

Now a clearly disoriented woman involved in a rush-hour hit-and-run claims to be the younger of the long-gone Bethany sisters. But her involuntary admission and subsequent attempt to stonewall investigators only deepens the mystery. Where has she been, why has she waited so long to come forward? Could her abductor truly be a beloved Baltimore cop? There isn't a shred of evidence to support her story, and every lead she gives the police seems to be another dead-end: a dying, incoherent man; a razed house; a missing grave; and a family that disintegrated long ago, torn apart not only by the crime but by the fissures the tragedy revealed in what appeared to be the perfect household.

In a story that moves back and forth across the decades, there is only one person who dares to be skeptical of a woman who wants to claim the identity of one Bethany sister without revealing the fate of the other. Will he be able to discover the truth?

©2007 Laura Lippman; (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers

What the Critics Say

"Edgar-winner Lippman...shows she's as good as Peter Abrahams and other A-list thriller writers with this outstanding stand-alone." (Publishers Weekly)
"An uncommonly clever impostor story, so cagily constructed that it easily fulfills the genre's two basic demands. First, Ms. Lippman is able to keep her reader guessing about the main character's disputed identity until the very end of this book. Second, when the revelation comes, it makes perfect sense, and it has been hiding in plain sight. This is not one of those mysteries with a denouement that feels tacked on, half baked or pulled out of thin air." (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (755 )
5 star
 (190)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Overall
3.8 (296 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.1 (296 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Susan Franklin, VA, United States 11-10-07
    Susan Franklin, VA, United States 11-10-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
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    3
    2
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    "The Suspense keeps building"

    A great story and anything but predictable. Lippman has a talent for evoking both a time and a place. She builds suspense even as we ricochet from past to present. Usually I take my time with audiobooks but I couldn't wait to finish this one.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jenny Wichita, KS, USA 04-27-07
    Jenny Wichita, KS, USA 04-27-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    59
    ratings
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    36
    15
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    FOLLOWING
    2
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    Overall
    "Not bad, not great"

    This writer has an interesting story to tell, and she does it skilfully. This is not a book you can listen to, put down for a couple of days, and come back to. As other reviewers have said, it skips around, and it will be difficult to follow if you put it down for awhile before you finish it. My main criticism is that at the very end, things wrap up just a little too neatly, and there's a little too much of a "happily ever after" quality about it. But it's still a good "read" and I recommend it. Not as cliche' as other books of this genre tend to be.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Booksmith 07-19-08
    Booksmith 07-19-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    46
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    133
    5
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    "What the confused know"

    I really had a hard time grasping the main character of this novel. Her reflections and feelings were abstract and too loose to hold on to. Hmmm...am I being vauge? Well, that sums up my impression of this book. Too staged, too predictable, too much trying to write a good book instead of actually doing so.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harris 10-26-10
    Harris 10-26-10 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    12
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    "Good Story-Telling, One-Trick Ending"

    The story unfolded slowley, but I liked the characters enough to stay with it. The twist at the end was satisfying. Kept my attention, which is good enough.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sandra L. Jacob US 12-17-09
    Sandra L. Jacob US 12-17-09 Member Since 2014

    Sleo

    HELPFUL VOTES
    111
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    1046
    51
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    Overall
    "I kept falling asleep"

    I had a hard time knowing who was talking and what time frame I was in. The narrator is not objectionable, but her voice is very monotonous and I found myself drifting off from time to time. Either the narrator's tone or the author's writing style created emotional distance from the story so that I never really became involved with any of the characters. I found both the detective and the central character (I'm not sure whether to call her 'Heather' or 'Sunny' or the victim or the perpetrator) very off putting. The detective's continual assessment of every female he met for her sexual desirability was repellent, and the protratonist's constant lying made me unsure of her likability. The ending was all wrapped up satisfactorily, almost too pat. Hence three stars. Even though I was struggling to get involved there was something that kept me going, but I'm not sure if it was the desire to see the end or the money I spent on the book! Perhaps others will like it better than I did.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tammy 06-19-08
    Tammy 06-19-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    95
    32
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    "What a twist!"

    This book was excellent. It was a perfect blend of the past and the present. Great description and I never saw the end coming. Caught me completely off guard. First book I've ever read by this author but will read more and hope they're all as good as this one.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judy Bristol, TN, USA 03-20-07
    Judy Bristol, TN, USA 03-20-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
    38
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    28
    3
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    "Not worth the money"

    The story line was good but it kept skipping around from person to person and present to past and back through out the whole book. It was hard to follow.

    32 of 46 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Glen Gardner, NJ, United States 08-13-13
    Karen Glen Gardner, NJ, United States 08-13-13 Member Since 2014

    Likes: Cozy mysteries (cats a plus), personal memoirs,not too dark fantasy, books about the brain. Dislikes: Torture, animal cruelty.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I had to know what happened"
    Any additional comments?

    What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman is about a case where two young sisters go to the mall and vanish. 30 years later a woman fleeing a car accident claims to be one of those sisters and part of the mystery is trying to determine is she or isn't she. A side note on this book is that it was inspired by a true story of two little girls who vanished from a mall in that area and some people object to the book on these grounds. I chose the book because the story sounded interesting, and I have to say I kept wanting to know how it was going to turn out. Was driving me crazy actually. .
    I should mention the book has some crude sexual content. Nothing I found unreadable though. I saw a review where the reader complained how annoying it was that they keep saying "a police". As in, "He was a police" or "Hard to make a living on a police's salary". And that really IS annoying. Does anyone actually say that? Is it actually said in Baltimore?
    I was concerned a book with this topic might turn out to be too sad - it didn't and I have seen some reviews even criticize it for that. In fact, I thought it was a very good book. A lot of criticism I saw seems to relate to the fact that it jumps around in time and viewpoint which confused people, though I did not find it at all confusing. It was a page turner, except for a section in the middle that dragged somewhat. But all in all I am quite satisfied with it. Once all the facts were out I am not sure that everyone's actions are 100% plausible, but I suppose in any particular situation different people might react differently. I'll probably try another of the books by this author although none looked quite as interesting as this one. I like to give a chance to anyone who can actually write a good book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jane Chicago, IL, United States 02-08-13
    Jane Chicago, IL, United States 02-08-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "3 ½ stars. Good story telling. Kept my interest."

    Absorbing mystery. It’s a very unusual story - when you learn everything at the end.

    BUT, when it was over I felt like I had just been told a sad story. Good people are hurt. Bad people get away with things. It’s semi happy for a few at the end, but not really. Overall I felt depressed and sad. Here it is the next day, and I’m still grieving for someone. So, since I read for entertainment, and this leaves me down, I’m rounding down to 3 stars.

    I was bothered by: Someone is killed and we never learn the details. We don’t know what the killer or victim said before it happened, or how it happened. This book is done in third person. We should have been able to get that.

    I did not like the main character Heather/Penelope or whatever her name was. Other main characters were not sympathetic. There was no main character to like. That’s not a requirement, but it helps me enjoy a story.

    NARRATOR:
    I loved the narrator Linda Emond. I could listen to her read anything. She doesn’t rush. Her voice is warm and pleasant. When I was debating whether to buy another book by Lippman, as soon as I saw that Linda Emond was narrating, that was it. I bought it due to the narrator.

    Genre: mystery

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathryn Baxter, MN, United States 01-15-13
    Kathryn Baxter, MN, United States 01-15-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    117
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    51
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    10
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    "Well Geez! Pleasantly.."

    I had never listened to Laura Lippman before and I chose this book because it wasn't associated with any series like some of her others (didn't want to have to listen to one to understand the other). For my first listen I am pleasantly surprised ( had some real doosers lately) and enjoyed how well rounded the story was. It was not a run of the mill, heard this before and if I had she must have done it better than the others. She gave you some choices as to who it really could be and what had actually happened and she made me change my mind a couple of times, coming out with a REALLY? moment ( loving how that was found out btw). Well thought out, great character development, held my interest and wanted to continue to listen, almost needing to. Linda Emond was a great narrator ( never heard her before either) and enjoyed how she performed the male voices, without over acting or trying to lower her voice to sound like James Earl Jones. It was what I was looking for ( I mentioned recovering from recent purchases) and think it is a great book to pick. Just downloaded ' I'd Know You Anywhere' and have hopes for that one also. I will definately put this in my 'listen to again pile'.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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