And When She Was Good

Aug 292012

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (August 14, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0061706876
ISBN-13: 978-0061706875

When Hector Lewis told his daughter that she had a nothing face, it was just another bit of tossed-off cruelty from a man who specialized in harsh words and harsher deeds. But twenty years later, Heloise considers it a blessing to be a person who knows how to avoid attention. In the comfortable suburb where she lives, she’s just a mom, the youngish widow with a forgettable job who somehow never misses a soccer game or a school play. In the state capitol, she’s the redheaded lobbyist with a good cause and a mediocre track record.

But in discreet hotel rooms throughout the area, she’s the woman of your dreams—if you can afford her hourly fee.

For more than a decade, Heloise has believed she is safe. She has created a rigidly compartmentalized life, maintaining no real friendships, trusting few confidantes. Only now her secret life, a life she was forced to build after the legitimate world turned its back on her, is under siege. Her once oblivious accountant is asking loaded questions. Her longtime protector is hinting at new, mysterious dangers. Her employees can’t be trusted. One county over, another so-called suburban madam has been found dead in her car, a suicide. Or is it?

Nothing is as it seems as Heloise faces a midlife crisis with much higher stakes than most will ever know.

And then she learns that her son’s father might be released from prison, which is problematic because he doesn’t know he has a son. The killer and former pimp also doesn’t realize that he’s serving a life sentence because Heloise betrayed him. But he’s clearly beginning to suspect that Heloise has been holding something back all these years.

With no formal education, no real family, and no friends, Heloise has to remake her life—again. Disappearing will be the easy part. She’s done it before and she can do it again. A new name and a new place aren’t hard to come by if you know the right people. The trick will be living long enough to start a new life.


Monday, October 3
The headline catches Heloise’s eye as she waits in the always-long line at the Starbucks closest to her son’s middle school. Of course, a headline is supposed to call attention to itself. That’s its job. Yet these letters are unusually huge, hectoring even, in a typeface suitable for a declaration of war or an invasion by aliens. It’s tacky, tarted up, as much of a strumpet as the woman whose death it’s trumpeting.
Heloise finds it interesting that suicide must be fudged but the label of madam requires no similar restraint, only qualification. She supposes that every madam needs her modifier. Suburban Madam, D.C. Madam, Hollywood Madam, Mayflower Madam. “Madam” on its own would make no impression in a headline, and this is the headline of the day, repeated ad nauseam on every news break on WTOP and WBAL, even the local cut-ins on NPR. Suburban Madam dead in apparent suicide. People are speaking of it here in line at this very moment, if only because the suburb in question is the bordering county’s version of this suburb. Albeit a lesser one, the residents of Turner’s Grove agree. Schools not quite as good, green space less lush, too much lower-cost housing bringing in riffraff. You know, the people who can afford only three hundred thousand dollars for a town house. Such as the Sub­urban Madam, although from what Heloise has gleaned, she lived in the most middle of the middle houses, not so grand as to draw attention to herself but not on the fringes either.
And yes, Heloise knows that because she has followed almost every news story about the Suburban Madam since her initial arrest eight months ago. She knows her name, Michelle Smith, and what she looks like in her mug shot, the only photo of her that seems to exist. Very dark hair—so dark it must be dyed—very pale eyes, otherwise so ordinary as to be any woman anywhere, the kind of stranger who looks familiar because she looks like so many people you know. Maybe Heloise is a little bit of a hypo­crite, decrying the news coverage even as she eats it up, but then she’s not a disinterested party, unlike the people in this line, most of whom probably use “disinterested” incorrectly in conversation yet consider themselves quite bright.


This was the first Laura Lippman book that I’ve read. I’ve heard so many other book lovers praise her other books, that I was really excited to get the chance to review this, but at the same time I was a little apprehensive due to the book being about a madam and prostitution. I shouldn’t have worried. the book doesn’t focus on sex. It’s about the love Heloise has for her son, the relationship between her and her parents, abuse, trust, everyday hardships, loving someone and thinking they loved you too and then finding out they were just using you…and so much more.

I can’t really say I had a favorite character, most of them I didn’t even like. But they were the type of characters that made me feel. Whether those feeling were good or bad didn’t matter really, the point was they made me feel something and that’s what kept me reading. The author did a great job with them and there are a few, especially Heloise, that I’ll be thinking about for quite some time.

The fact that Heloise was a madam and a lobbyist was hard to wrap my head around, especially since she kept her two lives so seperate. How did she keep such a big secret? One of the things that I couldn’t figure out was why Heloise stayed “in the business”. She could have given it up, but she didn’t.

The book was hard to put down and so it seemed much shorter than its 320 pages. While this book won’t go on my “best books I’ve ever read” list, it will go on my “books I remembered years after I read it” list. I’m very thankful to Partners In Crime and Laura Lippman for giving me the chance to reveiw this book. I will definitely be reading more by this author.

About The Author:
Laura Lippman is the author of eleven novels featuring Baltimore private detective Tess Monaghan, seven stand-alone novels, and a short story collection. Her six most recent books have all been New York Times bestsellers. Lippman has won numerous literary prizes for her work, including the Edgar®, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry, and Macavity Awards. A recent recipient of the first-ever Mayor’s Prize, she lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband, David Simon; their daughter; and her stepson.
Visit Laura: Website ~ Facebook


  9 Responses to “And When She Was Good”

  1. I’m looking forward to this book. It sounds different than Lippman’s usual work.

  2. Thank you for your insightful review. Great post! Thank you!

  3. Hi Vicki,

    I have never read any of this authors work, although I have come across her name on many occasions and have read some of the great reviews she has received.

    This book looks like a great place for me to start reading though. It sounds as though it has quite a strong storyline, with characters who have well defined personalities, everything I look for in a good novel.

    You gave this a really fair and honest review, which has helped me make my mind up to add it to my reading list, so thank you.


  4. I skimmed your review as I am in the middle of listening to this book on audio and far am enjoyed it and am feeling it building up to something!

  5. […] And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman  Add […]

  6. Sounds like a good one!

  7. I’ve read a few of her standalone books and liked them but when I read the summary of this one, it sounded like a departure for her. But maybe not! Glad you will give her another try.

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