Sunday, August 5, 2012

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

Set aside any prejudices you may have and settle in for a fast-paced intriguing story centering on a woman who does whatever she believes must be done in order to keep her son safe.  This is a woman many would consider reprehensible or an object of sick humor, yet Edgar-winner Lippman paints an intensely compelling, commiserative portrait of her.  We find ourselves rooting  for Heloise Lewis, the proprietor of a successful call-girl service.

    The setting is suburban Maryland, a residential area called Turner’s Grove, which is a far cry from where Heloise grew up.  The daughter of an abusive father and a mother who did nothing to protect her she believed the first person who showed her any kindness..  At the age of 16 she met Billy and thought they were in love, eventually she ran away with him thinking he would take care of her.  But he was an addict, deeply in debt.  “She got a job dancing” bringing all the money home, “and Billy, instead of paying the debts he owed, put it up his nose.”  She had no place to go.  When she had called home to tell her father she was in Maryland and planning to marry, “..her father had called her a whore and slammed down the phone.”   

    It was a long way from the room in a broken-down motel with Billy and the road was rough - from working for a pimp, Val Deluca, who is also the father of her son, Scott, to running her own call-girl service. A very profitable one.  Her neighbors in Turner’s Grove believed she was a young widow who kept very much to herself but never missed one of Scott’s soccer games or picking him up at school.  Heloise files taxes as a lobbyist, fighting for income parity with an agency called Women’s Full Employment Network.

    Val, not knowing he is Scott’s father is in jail, given away by Heloise.  But, he may be released from prison.  And, there is the recent death of another Suburban Madam.  It’s ruled a suicide, but is it?  Heloise fears she is in danger as well but again she has no where to go and no one to whom she can turn.

    As a former reporter Lippman researched the world of sex workers and she brings that world to frightening life as well as penning a remarkable original story of a strong, assertive woman who is fearless in creating a life for herself and her son.

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