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Novel of the week: Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman&rsquo;s unconventional new mystery &ldquo;burnishes the author&rsquo;s reputation as one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary fiction,&rdquo; said Daniel Mallory in <em>The New York Observer.</

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman (Morrow, $24.99)

Laura Lippman’s unconventional new mystery “burnishes the author’s reputation as one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary fiction,” said Daniel Mallory in The New York Observer. Though not as perfectly realized as 2007’s What the Dead Know, this latest stand-alone from the creator of the Tess Monaghan mystery series features a new female character who “intrigues and exasperates equally.” When 50-year-old Cassandra Fallows returns to her native Baltimore, she’s a best-selling memoirist hard up for a new book idea. She decides to write about a childhood acquaintance who served a long prison sentence after refusing to talk about the disappearance of her own infant child. But that criminal mystery proves less interesting than Cassandra’s vexed attempts to enlist old friends in her self-aggrandizing project, said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. The novel “turns out to be packed with old grudges, smart women, and devilish instances of Cassandra pulling the wool over her own eyes.” Thanks to Lippman’s craftiness, readers will be as devastated as Cassandra is when she finally realizes how badly she’s misinterpreted her own life.

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