Title: The Most Dangerous Thing
Author: Laura Lippman
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
When Gordon, better known as Go-Go, commits suicide, it sends shocks through the old group of friends that used to live in Dickeyville. Gwen, Mickey, and the Halloran brothers, Sean, Tim, and Go-Go, used to explore the nearby woods and were inseparable until something unthinkable happened, a secret that drove the group apart until now, years later. As they discover more information about Go-Go’s death, each begins to wonder if his suicide was connected with that secret that they have tried so hard to forget.
I am a fan of Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series and her standalone thrillers, so I was eager to read The Most Dangerous Thing. After reading it, though, I must say that it didn’t live up to my lofty expectations of what a Laura Lippman book should be. It was well-written, but I didn’t feel that need to finish it and understand the truth behind the story, as I have with her other novels such as What the Dead Know and I’d Know You Anywhere.
The Most Dangerous Thing is told from multiple different points of view. Gwen is arguably the primary narrator, but the reader hears from all five adults who made up that group so long ago. Additionally, the book jumps in time, such that readers see both the present day, as well as what led up to the life-changing event in the past. Lippman does an excellent job distinguishing between narrators and time periods for the most part, though the use of “we” became confusing at times because it seemed as though no single character was narrating.
The story is seamlessly woven, and given its complexity and number of characters, it is a testament to Lippman’s writing prowess. Her prose is clear and precise, and she fleshes out characters and events like the expert she is.
My issues with the novel stem from the storyline. I just didn’t find it as engaging as I’d hoped. I had no trouble putting the book down, and didn’t feel my usual need to pick it up again as soon as possible. I wasn’t that involved in the story, and I can’t say I loved any of the characters. A certain cameo towards the end of the book was the most exciting part of the novel for me; I didn’t feel like the reveal of the secret was enough impetus to drive the plot forward, and as a result, this book didn’t keep my attention as well as I’d have hoped.
Still, The Most Dangerous Thing is an interesting novel. Perhaps my issue with it is that it isn’t really a mystery or a psychological thriller, which is what I’ve come to expect from Lippman’s books. Instead, it’s an in-depth character study at how one tragic event can affect many different lives, even years later. It’s also a testament to the importance of the truth, how the truth can be “the most dangerous thing”, especially considering the fallibility of memory. It’s an intriguing contemporary fiction read, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for something quick and gripping.