Book Review: And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman


Rating: 3 / 5

No one would ever accuse Heloise of having a charmed life, or be jealous of her upbringing.  Heloise’s (born Helen) father was both verbally and physically abusive to her and her mother, and, seeing limited options at home, runs away with boyfriend, who ends up being a drug user and pusher.  In an effort to escape him, Heloise finds herself at the mercy of Val, a ruthless pimp.  But that was years ago.  Now, Heloise runs a successful, if technically an illegal, business, lives in a tony part of town, and is doing her best to raise her son Scott, in an environment that is as far removed as her own childhood. All is going well until one day another suburban madam is found murdered, and Helen realizes that she recognizes the victim.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I find it difficult to love a book when I don’t like the main character.  However, in this case, Heloise’s personality suits her and actually works well with the story.  Heloise is not warm, friendly, or funny, but given her childhood and back story, this is not surprising.  While Heloise is not particularly likeable, I didn’t dislike her either.  She showed genuine love and concern for Scott, and was business savvy and street smart.  On the other hand, Heloise did tend to over-victimize (is that even a real term?) herself.  She was raised in less-than-ideal circumstances, but never seemed to take responsibility for some of the choices she made.  There were times when she could have escaped abusive relationships but didn’t want to make the clean break.

I don’t read many books covering prostitution so I thought this was somewhat thought-provoking and interesting.  There are many people who view prostitution as degrading and objectifying women, while others believe that it is a choice and a means to an end.  For Heloise, operating her own escort service was her ticket to being independent.  In terms of education, with only a GED under her belt, her options for making a decent living were severely limited.

And When She was Good is an ideal lazy Sunday, beach, or airplane read.  This novel has varying bits of mystery, suspense, and crime, and is enjoyable, but not one that kept me up all night.

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