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Christian Science Monitor
Monday, April 23rd, 2007
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What the Dead Know: A Novel

by Laura Lippman

A 'Novel' Twist on Identity Theft

A review by Yvonne Zipp

Two sisters head to the mall Easter weekend and vanish. Hundreds of people were there that day, but no one saw anything. "It was almost enough to make you believe in the supernatural or alien abductions," remarks the baffled detective who headed the investigation. Thirty years later, a middle-aged woman involved in a traffic accident claims to be the younger girl, Heather Bethany. But she stonewalls when asked who kidnapped her and her sister, Sunny, and where she's been all these decades.

Is she really who she says she is? The police detective sent to interview her instinctively believes the woman is lying. The woman herself is candid about that: "It wasn't the lies that worried her. She could keep track of the lies. It was the bits of truth that put her at risk." But if she's lying, then how does she know so many details about the girls' lives? Laura Lippman, a former reporter with the Baltimore Sun, jumps expertly through time, juxtaposing the woman's story and the police investigation with the day in 1975 that the girls vanished, told from the viewpoints of both sisters and their stunned parents. What the Dead Know, which takes its title from Ecclesiastes, is a particularly well done puzzle by a true pro. While clever readers may be able to guess the mystery woman's identity, that won't detract from the book's considerable enjoyment. (Grade: A-)

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