In Laura Lippman’s compelling and provocative psychological thriller, I’d Know You Anywhere, she explores the emotions and thoughts of a serial killer and his victim.

Eliza Benedict is a happily married stay-at-home mother of two living in a D.C. suburb when she is contacted by Walter Bowman, who kidnapped her when she was 15. A serial killer who raped and killed young girls, he now sits on death row and writes to Eliza more than 20 years after he abducted her.

Alternating between the past and the present, Lippman deftly explores the relationship between victim and perpetrator and the impact of the crime on both the victim and the victims’ families. Walter is brilliantly rendered as a disturbingly ruthless and manipulative killer who feels no guilt and rationalizes every one of his crimes to justify his actions. Eliza, who witnessed the murder of Holly, his last victim, is racked with guilt and cannot stop blaming herself for Holly’s murder. Why was she the only victim allowed to live? That question haunts her throughout the novel.

While examining the aftermath of Walter’s crimes and the fallout for all the characters, Lippman also explores the ethical issues surrounding the death penalty. Holly’s parents, who blame Eliza for their daughter’s death, will never feel that justice is done until Walter is executed. Walter’s advocate, who is against the death penalty, pressures Eliza to visit Walter before his execution. Walter, however, has his own motives for wanting to see her one last time.

This powerful novel was inspired by real-life crimes. A serial killer, as in I’d Know You Anywhere, raped and killed his victims—except for one case, according to Lippman, in which the victim, a minor, was allowed to live and witnessed the murder of another victim. Lippman asked herself, “What is it like to be that person?” She probes that question with this riveting, suspenseful page-turner.

 

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