It took me forever (it seems) to finish Laura Lippman’s novel The Most Dangerous Thing, a book that the Wall Street Journal called “a creepy, genre-bending, stand-alone novel.”
Lippman’s novel is the overly long story of five childhood friends, Gwen, Mickey, Tim, Sean and Go-Go who are reunited as adults after Go-Go is killed in a car accident that may or may not have been deliberate. The real story, though, is about what happened to these five when they were kids – a bit of nasty business that is alluded to and then covered up. It’s the seventies, after all.
The story bounces between then and now and the big reveal – which comes in the novel’s final pages – doesn’t really equal the sum of its parts. My problem with the book is that it took forever to get anywhere and when I finally arrived I was just sort of meh about the whole affair. As a novel of “psychological suspense,” as the Globe and Mail purports it to be, it was lacking the actual suspense.
Actually, I think the real mystery in The Most Dangerous Thing is who is telling the story because Go-Go is dead and the remaining four are all referred to in the third person. In the author’s notes at the back of the book Ms. Lippman says: “I don’t want to tell you.”
As another kind of story, The Most Dangerous Thing is quite compelling. The children are children only in flashback; we are actually dealing with them as adults and their lives are messy and complicated – as lives tend to be. We also spend time with their parents and those lives aren’t much better. But the thing is – is The Most Dangerous Thing a family drama times three or is it a mystery, or a thriller, Maybe it’s social commentary?
Ms. Lippman says it’s her most autobiographical novel – geographically speaking. She says “I have been circling the unusual neighbourhood in which I grew up, determined to write about it, but wanting to wait for the right time and story.”
If I hadn’t been itching for the book to move along already, I would probably have enjoyed it more. Ms. Lippman is a wonderful writer, no question…but this book was only just okay for me. Maybe if I hadn’t been expecting something different, I would have been less disappointed.