The Girl in the Green Raincoat, Laura Lippman, William Morrow, $11.99.
This book is a pure blast. It’s the book form of a serialized novella Lippman wrote for The New York Times, and it’s a riff on both Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Josephine Tey’s classic The Daughter of Time. That is to say, Tess is confined to bed due to a problematic pregnancy (that was a surprise!) and like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, Tess becomes obsessed with the neighbors walking by her sun porch window, somewhat to Crow’s alarm.
She’s especially interested in a woman in a green raincoat, who walks her greyhound (wearing similar green accouterments) because the woman is perpetually talking on her cellphone. Tess feels this violates the zen-ness of dog walking rules. One day the woman doesn’t show up, and she sees the dog running loose, alone.
She’s instantly on the case, calling in help from Mrs. Blossom, Lloyd, Whitney, her dad and Crow. Each chapter (and Lippman talks about this in an afterword) illuminates whatever character who is front and center in that chapter, so as readers we learn about Lloyd’s love life, how Tess’ parent’s met, and Mrs. Blossom’s marriage. It’s a nifty way to keep the plot varied and interesting. As the story unfolds, Tess finds (through her agents) the dog, which she takes in. It turns out to be so horrible her other dogs refuse to associate with it. Unraveling the missing woman’s story is more complicated and starts to involve other missing women and their commonality, the missing woman’s husband.
While Lippman works with very familiar tropes, she makes them fresh, sometimes through originality of character, sometimes through humor, and always with a snap of her crisp plotting skills. The overarching structure she’s pirated from other sources becomes very much her own as she uses her now very impressive and honed writer’s skills to take control. As I said in the beginning, this books is a pure delight from beginning to end, and it ends, as it should, with the birth of Tess’ baby. Of course that begs the greedy reader’s question: what’s next for Tess, and how will she handle motherhood? If you’re like me, you’re going to be very impatient to find out the answers.
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