Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hardly Knew Her

Laura Lippman calls her genre "tart noir" and the title fits her short story collection, Hardly Knew Her.    The stories are dark, and the women, although firmly planted in the 2010s, are acidly drawn successors to the sort of woman played by Ida Lupino and Barbara Stanwick.  Lippman devotes the first two thirds of the collection to short stories featuring desperate women - a gambler's teenage daughter, an elderly woman denying her age, a mistress whose lover falls back in love with his wife, a babysitter with a dilemma - and sharp but believable plot twists.  Then there are three stories featuring Tess Monaghan, set before Tess's retirement in The Girl in the Green Raincoat, two cases and a "profile" of the accidental detective which foreshadows the earlier-written novella.  Finally, there's "Scratch a Woman" - too long for a short story, not quite a novella.  It's the story of a suburban call girl and her PTA-mom half sister, as tart and as twisted as the stories that precede it, and with perhaps the most surprising ending of all…or maybe not.

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