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Thursday, April 13, 2006

By a Spider's Thread

Just finished listening to By a spider’s thread, by Laura Lippman, on audiobook. Although it poses as a detective novel or mystery novel — or at least is so positioned by its publisher, Avon — it doesn’t really fit the genre very well. There is a private investigator, but there’s almost no mystery and no significant murder, and the author never gives the reader any clues to the one true surprise in the novel. Not that any of this makes it a bad book — far from it. It’s just that it’s going to disappoint readers who are looking for a traditional mystery.

Lippman’s novel is essentially an exploration of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Ukraine, along with two generations of descendants, with a range of Jewishness from totally unobservant to orthodox. The author achieves convincing character development in a short time span, because our understanding of the characters changes as we view them through the eyes of the detective, half-Irish and half-Jewish Tess Monaghan. Although it’s not a particularly fast-moving novel, Lippman maintains sufficient suspense as we learn what’s really going on and what the back story is. Recommended.

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