Reader reviews for And When She Was Good

She pours another glass of wine, finishing a bottle for the first time in years, yet feeling as if she’s not drinking alone, far from it. She’s one of a dozen, a hundred, a thousand, a million women, holding a glass and staring into space, asking herself the musical questions she used to hear on soupy, soapy WFEN radio: What’s it all about? Is that all there is? What are you doing with the rest of your life? - from And When She Was Good, page 125 -Heloise is living in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland with her eleven year old son, looking like most of the other women who drive their kids to school, drink coffee at the local cafe, and shop for the latest fashion trends. But, Heloise is hiding a secret. Her son’s father, Val, has not died the tragic death which Heloise has told her neighbors about…instead he sits in prison for murder because of Heloise’s cooperation with police. Val not only does not know the part Heloise has played in his conviction, but he also has no idea he has a son – a secret Heloise is committed to keeping. And Heloise is not supporting her lifestyle from some insurance payout, instead she runs a high end prostitution business where the customers are some of the most powerful men in politics and one misstep could upend her carefully constructed life.Heloise has learned to lie and hide, to compartmentalize her life so that she can give her son everything she never had…and it all seems to be working out until Heloise discovers that Val’s life imprisonment might be overturned, and a certain suburban Madam from the next town over is arrested and then found dead in her garage. Are the two incidents connected? And if so, what does that mean for Heloise?Laura Lippman will not disappoint her fans with this newest novel about the dark, despairing world of prostitution and the incomparable love of a mother for her son. Heloise is a surprisingly compassionate protagonist, a woman who survives the abusive hand of her stepfather only to find herself caught up in a life of meaningless sex for money. She is willing to do what it takes to survive, and is determined to make a life for her child even if it means risking everything. Heloise has learned to flatten her affect, disengage from others, be the keeper of her own life…and yet, she has dreams and desires that require her to trust. This dichotomy is what provides the tension in the novel.Lippman’s exploration of a woman’s value in society, which is often measured in her ability to balance the demands of marriage, motherhood and profession, elevates the book beyond a simple psychological thriller. Heloise represents many women – those who have suffered and survived domestic violence, those who have sacrificed for their children, those who have struggled to find their professional path, those who have fought for something better and have fallen and gotten back up again. Lippman’s talent as an author shines in this aspect of the novel – illuminating the challenges of women in a society which often demeans them.No one values her. That was a painful lesson to learn at her father’s knee – at the end of her father’s arm, at the flat of his palm – but once she absorbed it, she flourished. It doesn’t matter what others think she is worth. She sets the price. – from And When She Was Good, page 81 -I have loved previous novels by Lippman, but I think And When She Was Good is her best effort to date. Complex characters, themes relevant to today’s women, and a plot that is keenly observed and brilliantly executed. I read this novel in record time, not wanting to set it down for too long before picking it back up.Readers who love literary thrillers and want deeply developed characters along with a fast-paced plot, will not want to miss this one.Highly Recommended.
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I won this from the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway.This was a fantastically written, very compelling book. It was not the murder mystery that I thought it was, and if I hadn't been mistaken I might have skipped it and truly missed out on an excellent read. I will definitely be checking out some of Laura's other books because I really did like her writing.
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And When She Was Good is labeled as a mystery by the library, however, while there are some unknowns, this it really isn't a classic who-done-it mystery. It is very interesting and well written, but we really know who the "bad" guy is through the whole book.
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Heloise, born Helen, is a single mother and a business woman. Formerly a prostitute she now owns her own "consulting" business that caters to high profile men such as lawyers and polititians from Baltimore, Washington DC and Annapolis. She has tried to keep this part of her life secret as she lives in suburbia and is the typical mother. She pretty much keeps to herself and lives her life solely for her son. The death of a woman who was a madame with her own business is found dead, a suspected suicide, changes her life in a dangerous way. She not only has to deal with an ex employee who threatens to sue her because she claims she contracted HIV while in Heloise's employ, Heloise has a friend and protector in the police department who would warn her of any attempts to investigate her and her business, has decided to retire. The man who was her "pimp" is in prison for murder and Heloise comes to realize that this man can and will do whatever it takes to protect his interests. In describing what kind of woman Heloise is, the author tells a backstory of her life growing up in a dysfunctional family and her relationship with the man who is the father of her child.Ms.Lippman has the unique talent in setting up the story for the reader along with any backstory needed and then gives an ending that is totally unexpected. The latest psychological thriller from a gifted storyteller. A novel not to be missed. I highly recommend it and give it 5 stars.
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From then on, she flees from situation to another dangerous situation to another.This is not a story of sex; it is one of survival, loneliness and living by your wits. Helen ached for a loving father and mother so she did the opposite of them. She became a great mother to her son. She could never tell her neighbors about herself and not even tell her son anything about his father. Her intelligence shone through by the way that she organized her business but she was always craving a real education. She always had to figure out how to change her life. And the unraveling of the mystery of why the death of the suburban madam is so important to the story grows more important as the story develops.I highly recommend this book to all Laura Lippman fans.Although I received this book from the Amazon Vine Program, that in no way influenced my review.
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Read from September 16 to 19, 2012I liked this book, I mean, I kept reading until it was finished. But there was something about the end that just left me a little disappointed. Heloise is a strong female lead that made a bad choice when she was in high school that she's been paying for ever since. (At least that's the way I read it.) I liked that Heloise never saw herself as a victim and she was definitely a protective mother. I think my problem with the end was the way the past and the present converged. When I saw that we were in 2011, I wasn't sure if that was the present or a year ago. It threw me off. Then everything just cleaned up so nicely at the end. It was too clean, I think.Still a good read though and I nice introduction to Lippman's writing (this is my first Laura Lippman experience).
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I always enjoy Laura Lippman's books - series or standalone. And When She Was Good is her latest standalone and I loved it. Through the character of Heloise, Lippman gives a voice to a woman who is in some living with the consequences of a single bad choice and in others ways rising above those consequences even while swimming in them like a shark.Heloise had a terrible relationship with her father and watched her mother do the same. In the end, her mother's devotion to her father far outstripped her devotion to her own daughter and this haunts the book and Heloise's life. As a teenager she becomes involved with the (very) wrong man. She runs away with him and begins stripping and then hooking to support his drug habit. Desperate for a way out she turns to Val, a pimp and all-around criminal, who rescues her from her first love. In return she is Val's very careful favorite - at the top of a hierarchy of girls who take in-call or walk the streets. At the time of our story Val is in prison and she is running a high-end out-call service - very discreet - and the precariousness of her carefully built life becomes apparent. Things are going wrong, people from her old life are popping up dead, and she's not sure she can keep herself and her son safe. She longs for something different - a legitimate business - yet doubts her ability to make that step.Ms. Lippman brings the reader into Heloise's world with great ease, treating her character as a real person rather than as the cardboard cutout stereotype that most people imagine apply to prostitution. This is less a crime book and more a character portrait and I loved every single word. Heloise is a woman I could relate to and her plight isn't that different than the plight of many women who live in circumstances that lead them to poor choices - the wrong man ---> drugs or alcohol ---> abuse of one kind or another ---> illness ---> underemployment, and on and on. It's good for us all to remember that no matter the situation the person in it is a human being who once had all the shining potential that children have before the real world either elevates or stomps all over them. Just one misstep - that all it takes. Highly recommended.More about books at: chaotic compendiums
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Heloise Lewis is the proprietor of an escort service whose clients tend to be Washington politicians. She is also a single mother to Scott, a preteen. She has been able to keep her private and professional lives separate so she can build a safe world for her son, but that world starts crumbling. Prostitutes who worked for Val, Heloise’s former pimp, die and Heloise suspects they have been murdered and wonders if she might be next. Will she be able to reinvent herself and begin a new life?In many ways the book is not really a thriller; the pacing initially is rather slow for a suspense novel. The book is more of a character study, albeit a flawed one. Through flashbacks we learn about how Heloise found herself following this particular lifestyle, and she becomes someone for whom we have compassion. She is indeed not perfect; she herself says, “It was a toss-up who had caused more damage in the world, she or Val.” She is, however, a survivor whose priority is her son. She is an intelligent and astute woman, although there are a couple of instances where she inexplicably fails to recognize people’s true motives. The other problem is that she continues to visit Val, who is in prison for murder, even though she fears him and hides from him the fact that she bore his child. Why she doesn’t cut all ties is not convincingly explained.The characterization is good in that Heloise is developed into a dynamic character. For example, she is very judgmental of her mother, but eventually realizes, “She’s been a dupe, a sap. She is, in short, as unwitting as her own mother.” She recognizes another similarity: “It was never her intention to ruin anyone. She was only offering girls the same life she had fashioned for herself. Her mother, she realizes, could make the same realization.” In the end she forgives her mother, hoping that forgiveness has “transitive properties.”The book explores a woman’s value in society. Heloise believes, “No one values her.” She takes this “painful lesson” and uses it to her advantage, deciding, “It doesn’t matter what others think she is worth. She sets the price.” The book is a worthwhile read for its addressing misconceptions about prostitutes and the challenges women face in a society which often demeans them.
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I received "And When She Was Good" as an advanced readers' copy. I understand sometimes authors will make changes before publication, so this review is based on the ARC.I liked the book. It was good, not great. It held my attention and would make a good summer reading choice for the beach. There isn't a whole lot of thinking that needs to go into reading the book which makes it a nice summer read.
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SummaryHelen/Heloise escaped an abusive household right into the arms of her first "pimp" Billy...who then passed her along to Val. With no education, no money, no skills, and no self-confidence whatsoever at all, Heloise falls into a life from which there is no escape. Over time Heloise does learn survival skills, sometimes doing things that she wishes she didn't have to in order to stay alive and keep hoping for a better day. An unexpected pregnancy is the impetus for her escape attempt and puts the wheels in motion for a life of running from the truth. Heloise creates her own prostitution business and stays barely a step or two ahead of being discovered for what she has been and really is...all the while learning more about life and what it takes to make it in a world where no one receives a break for free. The takers are the only ones who win. What I LikedVal - as evil as he was...and he was evil (and mean), I thought this character was incredibly well developed. He's a thug, no doubt, but the reader can't help to respect him and even fear him a little. Heloise's self made education through books and courses online that she found relevant to her life and her sense of self. Isn't this what education should be all about?Audrey - Heloise and Audrey's relationship was complicated. As Heloise's right hand woman, the reader's first instinct is for them to be close...but both are damaged, and damaged just enough that neither completely lets down her guard...ever. Yet, the relationship works. There's a lot to be said about true unconditional friendship between women. I think women in today's society have grown too accustomed to tearing each other down rather than helping hold each other up. No whining here at all...just two strong women, accepting life for what it is and moving forward any way they can.Scott - Scott is what I believe holds Heloise together and keeps her from becoming a statistic or another unidentified druggie hooker body in the city morgue. The pace - I couldn't put this down. You've gotta love a book like that every now and then. Your heart races; your eyes are blurry from no sleep, but you can't stop. This will definitely not be my last Laura Lippman read.The language - this is a fast paced, heart racing thriller with literary quality. I'm no literary snob, I promise...I read all kinds of "stuff." But, good writing is good writing, and Lippman is the real deal. Obviously the issue here is prostitution. I have never bought the excuse that some women enjoy prostitution and do it because they want to. And, I'm appalled at the lack of support, financial, psychological, sociological, etc. for women who work in both the prostitution and porn industries. The good ole boy network is alive and well within these "careers" and women are used and abused...no matter how you look at it. Lippman deals with prostitution in the only real way it can be dealt with...there are no answers. It is complicated, the consequences are varied, many times ugly, have far reaching effects, and is sometimes deadly. Yet, some women "choose" to earn money this way. Why they "choose" prostitution is sometimes even more convaluted than the industry itself. I'm a firm believer in no easy answers...and I thoroughly enjoy a writer who doesn't try to create a fairy tale ending for a fairy tale world that frankly doesn't exist...for anyone.What I Didn't LikeHector and Beth - Hector is a no-brainer, an abusive husband/father, jerk, two-timer, arsehole...nothing to like there. But Beth? She was supposed to be Heloise's mother. Just because she chose to live the life she did shouldn't mean allowing Heloise to suffer as well. I didn't expect Heloise to forgive her, but it was obviously difficult for her to walk away from Beth forever. Lippman handled this relationship perfectly in the end.Terry - this relationship didn't fit for me at all...and it seemed unlikely that given Heloise's past, she would fall for someone like Terry. I didn't like him at all...too needy and too beggy and too sweet. Too good to be true.While Heloise is tough as nails, there were a couple of times where she almost panics and tells more than she should...to the wrong person. She has a conversation with Bettina, another prostitute from the old days, for example, where I literally was yelling, "NO, don't do this...don't tell her all that!" Of course, she didn't listen to me. So then, I was shaking my head in disbelief and then also wanted to say "I told you so" when that particular information was used against her. At first I found it unbelievable that Heloise would break like that, but she's holding a loaded deck and the handful of cards she's focusing on is getting harder and harder to keep straight. It makes perfect sense that she would panic since she is at heart a very good person. I just didn't like it. I honestly wanted her to beat the crap out of the people who did her wrong. So there.Overall RecommendationWhile this is my first Lippman, I know that it is a stand alone rather than a continuation of her series about Tess Monaghan. Whether or not you've read any of Lippman's series, I think you'll find And When She Was Good to be an exciting ride with the added bonus of quality writing and complicated women's issues embedded. (As if there are any other kind of women's issues :/)
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