In the comfortable suburb where Heloise Lewis 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.
But now, after a decade, her secret life is under siege. Her once oblivious accountant is asking loaded questions. Her longtime protector is hinting at new 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? And then she learns that her son's father, a killer and former pimp, might be released from prison. With no formal education, no real family, and no friends, Heloise has to remake her life—again. Disappearing will be the easy part. The trick will be living long enough to start a new life.
In Laura Lippman's And When She Was Good Heloise Lewis, aka Helen, is, from all appearances, a single mother and successful lobbyist for the Women's Full Employment Network living in Turner's Grove, Maryland. Only a select number of people know that in reality she is a suburban madam. Heloise keeps her personal life and privacy carefully guarded while she tries to run her successful business and raise her son.
Heloise grew up as Helen Lewis, the daughter of an abusive father and submissive mother. When her father told her that her looks were forgettable (and later beat her), she took it to heart and now, as an adult, she tries to blend in, and avoid arousing anyone's suspicions. While she blames her father for the path her life took and her lack of education, they are the result of Heloise's own poor choices. But Heloise is intelligent and resourceful, as she manages to build up a successful business behind a legitimate business facade.
The chapters alternate between the current day Heloise and Helen from earlier times. As Heloise struggles with her current problems, we slowly learn what took place in her life as Helen and how her actions and decisions back then are encroaching on her life today. Heloise wants to live a quiet life with her son, Scott, but circumstances are looking more and more like someone wants her dead - and it could be Scott's father, a man who knows nothing about his son. Most people think Heloise is a widow, but Scott's father is alive and well - and in prison.
The suspense slowly builds as more and more of Heloise's past is revealed and the reader begins to suspect the problems that may arise in her present situation. While it's no real surprise who the bad guys are in this novel, it is a pleasure reading to find out what is going to happen next. In deference to Lippman's considerable talent and writing ability, I'll admit I read And When She Was Good quite quickly because I was simply unable to put it down.
I did struggle with an inability to be completely accepting of Helen's feelings that she was trapped in her life's choices. I just kept saying in my mind that her problems were a result of her poor choices. Yes her father was an abusive jerk, but he didn't force her down the path she chose. And, while I agree that in the sex and porn industry that the women are someone's daughter, neighbor, mother, sister, it should be noted that the men who objectify and take advantage of the woman are a large part of the problem. It is a hot topic that merits debate way beyond the scope of a novel.
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.
Disclosure: I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher and TLC for review purposes.