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Hardly Knew Her Paperback – September 29, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of bestseller Lippman's long-running series featuring Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan (Another Thing to Fall, etc.) will be pleased to find that the 17 selections in her first short story collection are as intricate and witty as her novels. Part one, Girls Gone Wild, focuses on women engaged in all manner of shady enterprises, from first-time drug buyers in The Crack Cocaine Diet to an unassuming femme fatale with a secret in Dear Penthouse Forum (A First Draft). Lest readers think Lippman can only work her magic in her Maryland hometown, she devotes a section, Other Cities, Not My Own, to stories in settings as disparate as New Orleans during Mardi Gras (Pony Girl) and Dublin, Ireland, full of jilted lovers (Honor Bar). The book's climax is Scratch a Woman, a novella written for the collection and starring Heloise, the enterprising heroine of One True Love, an earlier entry. George Pelecanos provides an appreciative introduction. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Readers buckle in with high anticipation as each of best-selling Lippman’s mysteries featuring the Baltimore private eye Tess Monaghan appears. But this major-prize-winning crime writer has also crafted stand-alone novels, including What the Dead Know (2007), and now reveals her great gift for whiplash short stories in this top-rate collection introduced by George Pelecanos. Here scams and murders are not the desperate acts of Baltimore’s downtrodden but, rather, the calculated moves of soccer moms, real-estate-savvy suburbanites, and nihilistic teens and college students. In an intoxicating mix of Poe-like horror and the pleasingly bitter irony of Dorothy Parker, Lippman tells deliciously vicious, topsy-turvy tales of women taking revenge for the endless insults and injuries of sexist, selfish men, and, for good measure, of guys who rid themselves of manipulative women. Tess is present, most enjoyably in a hilarious faux interview, while two particularly resonant tales portray Heloise, a sophisticated D.C. madam. Lippman is a class act and a potent storyteller in these elegant, furious, and blues-blasting dispatches from the endless war between the sexes. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061490962
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061490965
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,187,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dark, smart and violent, bestselling author Laura Lippman's first collection of short stories have a fascinating and sinister edge. HARDLY KNEW HER contains 16 tales and one novella, most told from the perspective of desperate and depressed women who find their sexuality to be both a liberating source of power and a confining detriment.

Lippman is an accomplished mystery and crime writer, and the stories here have her signature style, combining a journalistic voice with a highly charged emotional intensity (not to mention a scathing wit). In these selections there is usually a sad and cynical outcome, and even though, a few stories in, the resolution of each tale becomes familiar and predictable, each is entertaining and well-written.

Two stories center on Lippman's well-known character, private investigator Tess Monaghan. Another, as well as the novella, revolves around a former street-walker turned madame and suburban prostitute named Heloise. In "One True Love," Heloise's two lives collide when a john turns out to be the father of a boy on her own son's soccer team. She must figure out how to protect herself from the damage he could do to her legally, emotionally and physically, and she especially must protect her young son Scott. In "Scratch a Woman," Heloise's conflict is with her half-sister Meghan, an uptight and emotionally damaged suburban mom whose attempted murder of her husband is witnessed by her dangerous neighbor. In the Heloise portions of the book, we get a sense of what brought the sisters to these sad points in their lives, but the majority of the stories show us just acts of violence, and the moments before and after them.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read Lippman's book, What The Dead Know, and liked its originality, so I snapped up her book of short stories and, even though it's a totally different genre, hoped for the best. I wasn't disappointed!

The 16 shorts and a novella in Lippman's Hardly Knew Her are exceptional. I was convinced after reading these tales of murder that any ordinary soccer mom, or bored retiree, or devoted husband and father can easily be driven to homicide in a weak moment. What is so chilling about the situations in many of the stories, at least to me, is the feeling that I have met all these people before. They are not cackling madwomen, but my neighbors, my coworkers, my school friends....yikes. That is not to say that Lippman's stories themselves are ordinary - far from it.

Any one of these stories could be expanded into a full-length novel, but Lippman has pruned wisely, and carefully chosen every word to create smart noir in each of the tales. Well worth the time.
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The opening story, "The Crack Cocaine Diet," is a zinger. So perfectly does Lippman capture the ribald voice of the two best friends looking to score over their ex-boyfriends that she has you hooked within a few lines. And when the story takes a few unexpected turns, you are along for the ride, never mind the whiplash. This story, a mere 13 pages, is the first of a set collectively titled "Girls Gone Wild," and you quickly get the underlying idea: that the female of the species is deadlier than the male. So, in that sense, there is no suspense; all these stories end in crimes, and you have a pretty fair idea who will commit them. What keeps you reading is Lippman's inexhaustible ability to find variations, taking you with equal assurance into upscale suburban homes, decaying row-houses, and bachelor lofts, finding her protagonists among schoolgirls, soccer moms, and white-haired retirees. Half the pleasure of reading her stories comes from Lippman's pinpoint accuracy in penetrating different corners of the modern world.

Many of the stories are set in Baltimore, where I live, so there is also the pleasing shock of familiarity. A very few depend on local preoccupations, such as Preakness or the Orioles, and may be less immediate to outsiders. As if to compensate, there is a group entitled "Other Cities, Not My Own," set in places like New Orleans and Dublin, but the stories set on Lippman's home turf seem more deeply rooted psychologically as well.

With the exception of three stories featuring Lippman's private detective Tess Monaghan, which tend to deal with lesser crimes, most of the murders in this collection go undetected or unpunished.
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With only a couple of exceptions, these short stories are so good that I almost wished Lippman stopped writing novels and dedicated her time to writing just short stories. The only two stories that are quite weak are the ones that feature Tess Monaghan. It feels like they were stuck there for no other reason other than to attract the long-time fans of this character and get them to buy this collection. The two Monaghan stories are boring and don't live up to the high standards of the other stories in the HARDLY KNEW HER.

Lippman's stories explore various ways in which women sell sex for money. The stories are very different, they are narrated in very distinctive voices and are set in extremely different social surroundings. Still, each of them addresses the relationship between sex and money in a way that is always insightful and fresh. Cheap didacticism is alien to Lippman. Among her female characters who sell their bodies in a variety of inventive ways, the only one who has character and integrity is a career prostitute. She is, of course, despised by housewives who believe that selling themselves just to one man is somehow better. Lippman makes it very clear that her sympathies lie with the honest, resourceful prostitute and not with the spoiled housewives who go to great lengths to convince themselves of their non-existent superiority. This kind of honesty is not easy to find in a genre that is addressed to an overwhelmingly female audience. The desire to keep the housewives happy and cater to their tastes has been the downfall of many an entertainer. Thankfully, Lippman is not one of them.

Laura Lippman lives in Baltimore, and most of her stories are set in this city. The few times that she ventures to other settings, her stories lose in quality.
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