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The Most Dangerous Thing Paperback – May 1, 2012

3.4 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Product Description
Some secrets can’t be kept…

Years ago, they were all the best of friends. But as time passed and circumstances changed, they grew apart, became adults with families of their own, and began to forget about the past—and the terrible lie they all shared. But now Gordon, the youngest and wildest of the five, has died and the others are thrown together for the first time in years.

And then the revelations start.

Could their long-ago lie be the reason for their troubles today? Is it more dangerous to admit to what they’ve done or is it the strain of keeping the secret that is beginning to wear on them and everyone close to them? Each one of these old friends has to wonder if their secret has been discovered—and if someone within the circle is out to destroy them.

Amazon Exclusive: Kate Atkinson Interviews Laura Lippman

Kate Atkinson‘s first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, was named Whitbread Book of the Year in the U.K. in 1995, and was followed by Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Not the End of the World, Case Histories and One Good Turn.

Kate Atkinson: You employ the first person plural in parts of the new novel. It’s quite a startling device (I loved it in Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End). Why did you use it in The Most Dangerous Thing?

Laura Lippman: The decision was intuitive at first—that is, I knew it was right, without knowing why it was right. When I finished the book, I realized that these passages are a consensual version of what happened in the past, that the survivors have agreed on what happened and that’s why the story is, at turns, unflattering to each of them. They are working out their level of culpability in several tragedies and they just can’t face this alone. And that voice allowed me to include a subtext of gloom and foreboding—the story is being told by people who know how badly it ends.

KA: Do you think you write better now than you did when you first began to write novels? (I only ask because I think I’m a much better writer than I used to be but no one else seems to have noticed.) Do you feel you can trust your “inner critic” or are you plagued by doubts the whole time you are writing?

LL: At the risk of sounding obsequious, I have to say that you set the bar awfully high for yourself with Behind the Scenes at the Museum, but I’ve noticed how your work has changed, although I think the word that comes to mind isn’t better, but bolder. You take such big risks and yet you manage them with aplomb. The frustration of being a fan of your work is that there’s nothing quite like it. There are lots of wonderful writers in crime and literary fiction, but there’s only person who can write a Kate Atkinson novel.

I didn’t start out on the same level. That’s not poor-mouthing, as my Southern relatives would have it, but a fact on which everyone agrees. People tell me all the time—really, all the time—how far I’ve come since my first book. But, whether one writes a great first novel or simply a decent one, what are the choices? One can get better, worse, or stay the same. I shoot for better and I accept that there may be some dips, but they’ll come from trying new things at least, not doing the same things over and over. I do trust my inner critic, but I'm happy to have a circle of external critics that I trust as well.

KA: You “honor” the dead in your novels rather than exploit them for sadistic effect. Do you think that’s due to your background as a reporter butting up against real lives rather than fictional ones? Or because you’re a woman? Or just a decent human being?

LL: All of the above? At least, I hope I’m a decent person. I do think crime writers need to take a moment for introspection about the stories we’re telling and the bodies that are piling up around us. It’s somber stuff. There should be an agenda beyond sensation.

KA: How many novels do you have on the back burner at any one time? Have you ever sat down to write and not had any idea what you were going to do?

LL: Once—just once—I managed to have two projects going on simultaneously, a novel and a novella. I do best with one thing in front of me. And, increasingly, I have no idea what I’m going to write next. But that’s part of the job and, for me, part of the fun. I know a book is finished when I’m ready to sit down and ask myself, “What next, what interests me right now?” With The Most Dangerous Thing, I was interested in the way life becomes a kind of horror film at middle age. About two months after I started this book, my father-in-law died after a long decline. About the same time, one of my husband’s oldest friends, dating back to his days on the college newspaper, had a stroke at the age of 48, and died within hours. Yesterday, I picked up The New York Times and happened on a first-person piece by a former colleague, who wrote about having ALS and his intention to commit suicide while he was still able-bodied. He's only 66.

But I also became a parent for the first time last year, which isn’t one of the typical milestones of middle-age, yet there it was. And it had a huge impact on the book.

KA: Do you feel guilty when you’re not writing, even when the other thing you’re doing is totally fulfilling or completely altruistic or utterly well deserved?

LL: If I’ve been disciplined—gone to my desk every weekday morning, written at least 1,000 words—I seldom feel guilty. I feel much more guilt-ridden about not reading enough.

But I will steal a line from Anne Lamott, who once said if people knew how good she felt writing they would set her on fire. Just this morning I was working and it wasn’t an on-fire moment, but it wasn’t a bad day either. Just an average one, the kind of days one has in the dead middle of books. I took a sip of my latte, looked at the clock on my computer and thought: It is 10:10 a.m. and my job is to sit here and make things up. I am a very lucky person.

KA: “I've never wanted people to feel good at the end of my novels,” you said in a Publishers Weekly interview. But do you feel good when you finish?

LL: I feel fabulous. It's the best day of the year. But even on a book-a-year schedule, that means I feel fabulous only one day a year. As someone who takes great pride in completing things, I’ve chosen an interesting little hell for myself.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Lippman is a writing powerhouse.' USA Today 'Truly a one-of-a-kind talent.' Chicago Sun-Times --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062122924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062122926
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about "accidental PI" Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor's Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association. Ms. Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., Ms. Lippman attended Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her other newspaper jobs included the Waco Tribune-Herald and the San Antonio Light. Ms. Lippman returned to Baltimore in 1989 and has lived there since.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Lippman explores a mythologized childhood in the woods that skirts Dickeyville, a suburb just inside Baltimore. Five children, Gwen, tomboy Mickey and the wild Halloran brothers, Sean, Tim and Gordon (Go-Go), spend their summers exploring, far exceeding the boundaries of their parents' permission to remain on the outskirts of the wilderness. The unity of five, Go-Go the youngest, following the older kids like a happy puppy, gradually evolves with the onset of adolescence, until a fateful summer where a ramshackle cottage is the scene of tragedy the night of a fearsome hurricane. Thirty-two years later, Go-Go is dead, either by accident or suicide, his descent into bad behavior long a familiar theme in the Halloran family. Go-Go's history is littered with secrets, the long habits of parents keeping silent about bad things infecting five friends who have secrets of their own. None of them have survived that final summer unscathed, brought together finally by the loss of the boy who raptly copied everything they did and hid the ugliest secret of them all.

The narrative voice dissects the lives of each, Gwen, Tim, Sean, Go-Go and Mickey (who has changed her name to McKey). But Lippman fleshes out these pivotal characters with their mothers and fathers, the family patterns, the facades of marriage and secrets passed from one generation to another.
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3.5 stars.

After I finished I WOULD KNOW YOU ANYWHERE and loved it, I was eager to purchase Laura Lippman's latest THE MOST DANGEROUS THING.

The book is very well written and explores childhood friendships and childhood secrets. The story goes back and forth from the late 70's to current time. Every chapter is narrated by a different character which is fine, but sometimes I found it hard to figure out who was talking at the time. The story flows very smoothly but I almost want to say there is "much ado about nothing". I was expecting something horrific, terrible and completely different than what actually happens.

When I finished the book I said "what"? That's it? I guess my feelings stemmed from the whole book leading up to this secret lie or cover up which I just didnt think was so horrible. (bad, mind you, but not horrible to cause the feelings and depths everyone took to hide it)

Loved her characters and their development but just felt let down after it was finished. I will say I am glad I bought it because I was entertained but just let down by the ending.

Ps. This is a very personal book for her as she is writing some of the characters and the setting from her actual childhood, maybe that had something to do with it.
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Format: Paperback
In the Dickeyville area of Baltimore, five school-age children meet and bond. They form a group and compare themselves to the five arms of a starfish. The group is composed of Gwen, the Halloran brothers, Tim, Sean and Go Go and, Mickey Wyckoff, the other girl in the group.

Their neighborhood was quiet and the parents permitted the children to play without monitoring their activities.

The action in the story moves from events in the 1970s to current time.

In current time, Gwen returns to care for her elderly father who has broken his hip in a fall. While home, she meets Sean Halloran who informs her that his brother, Go Go, has died, from suicide.

We learn about the character's lives since their teenage years. Gwen is married to a surgeon named Karl who seems mainly interested in himself. She's a magazine editor and wonders if she wants to live in a home where her husband is the only thing that matters.

The friends often played in Leaken Park and in 1978, while exploring, they come upon an abandoned cabin that was now the dwelling of a homeless black man. There are numerous chickens around the property and they refer to the man as Chicken George. They become casual friends of this man who often disappears for long periods.

During the summer of 1978, Gwen and Sean were dating and in her bedroom when Mickey and Go Go travel to the cabin and become involved in something with Chicken George.

We observe various sides to this event which has a major effect on the group and ends their childhood innocence.

The story is told at a leisurely pace to match the uncomplicated life the characters had. The dialogue shows the changes from when the characters were young to their maturity.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
PLOT: Gordon Halloran has fallen off the wagon again. When he dies in a car accident, it begins to raise questions among his childhood friends about an incident that happened one long ago summer.

CONS: I selected this thinking it was a mystery. There's very little mystery here. The only questions I had while reading it were when would it end and why I was still reading it. The Most Dangerous Thing is a long winded dull version of "I Know What You Did Last Summer." Only worse. It doesn't take the reader long to figure out what the secret that the friends share is going to be, but it sure takes a long time for the novel to reveal it. By this time, it's anticlimactic.

With few exceptions, most of the characters were self absorbed and unlikeable.

There is so little action in this novel. It's like reading someone's diary. Filled with more introspective thoughts than action, the story goes almost nowhere. It's roughly half flash back. Even in the flashbacks, there's little action or conversation.

PROS: There are a few funny bits.

2 STARS: I really liked Hardly Knew Her by this author and kept expecting this story to get better. It didn't.
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