At the start of this gripping standalone psychological thriller from Laura Lippman — who’s been on a real winning streak of late, with the brilliant beach noir “Sunburn” and historical mystery “The Lady in the Lake” — successful novelist Gerry Anderson takes a tumble down the staircase in his Baltimore penthouse, and finds himself laid up in bed while he recovers from his injuries, with only his personal assistant Victoria and night nurse Aileen for company.
There, marooned to his bed and doped up on painkillers, he’s forced to reflect on his life: the (relative) failings of his novels post his blockbuster “Dream Girl,” and recent writer’s block; a cavalcade of bad relationships; the death of his mother and the abandonment of his father; and a lifetime of (what he deems) trivial misdemeanors.
His reveries are fractured by phone calls from a woman claiming to be the inspiration for “Dream Girl” — impossible, because Gerry has stated time and time again that she was conjured out of pure imagination. And when he attempts to investigate the calls, he finds no evidence of them. Concluding, uneasily, that he must be hallucinating, Gerry settles in for his long recuperation. Then he wakes up and finds a dead woman in his bed.
“Dream Girl” is festooned with far-flung complications, twists and revelations that build to a satisfying conclusion. The trouble with a novel of this type is that the more teasers and red-herrings that fill it, the less organic its narrative feels; things start to feel schematic rather than nightmarish, and you can feel the writer manipulating events to reach those I-didn’t-see-that-coming moments.
Lippman stops just short of convoluting her tale. She is a supreme storyteller, who breaks up her zigzagging story with interludes that focus on Gerry’s past, and insights into his writing life. She has more than just tricks up her sleeve: the drama and tension she creates is rooted in her textured characters.
Number Of Pages: 320
Published: 2nd July 2021