Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D

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The Most Dangerous Thing
352 pages; William Morrow
Gordon Halloran dies after drunkenly speeding his Buick into a concrete barrier. Flash back 30 years: Something terrible has happened in the nearby woods. Gordon, then just a boy, was involved. Are the two events somehow connected? That's the question driving the suspense in The Most Dangerous Thing (William Morrow), Laura Lippman's rich, multigenerational tale that explores how relationships between friends, spouses, neighbors, parents, and children wound and sustain us. Set in the Baltimore community of Dickeyville, the story toggles between 1976—when Gordon, his two brothers, and two neighborhood girls form a tight bond that eventually leads to trouble—and the near present, when the surviving four friends meet at Gordon's funeral. Mourning turns to fear when Lippman's popular private detective from previous books, Tess Monaghan (in a cameo role), seems to have tried to contact Gordon in the weeks before his death. The mystery is undeniably compelling, but it is the characters' everyday lives and longings that make Lippman's novel so knowing. Example: Tally, a housewife who married young, thinks, "I want to move to Paris." But that's not quite true. As Lippman observes, "What Tally actually wants is a do-over, to move to Paris at age 18, to return to a time when she had such choices." Regrets? These characters all have more than a few, but none more haunting than the ones born that fateful night in the woods.
— Karen Holt