The Most Dangerous Thing

( 46 )


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 ("Go-Go"), the youngest and wildest of the five, has died unexpectedly and the other four have come together for the first time in years. Suddenly each of these old friends has to wonder if the dark secret they've shared for so long is the reason for their troubles today . . . ...

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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 ("Go-Go"), the youngest and wildest of the five, has died unexpectedly and the other four have come together for the first time in years. Suddenly each of these old friends has to wonder if the dark secret they've shared for so long is the reason for their troubles today . . . and if someone within the circle is trying to destroy them all.

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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
A mysterious childhood secret is standard fare in suspense novels, but Lippman keeps this device fresh with a complex narrative structure of shifting timelines and multiple points of view. These changes in perspective allow her to circle the secret in a way that broadens the mystery and deepens the characters…
—The New York Times Book Review
Maureen Corrigan
Lippman vividly summons up the formlessness of summer days of yore, when accidental bands of kids who had nothing much in common but their neighborhood would clump together and ask, "Whaddayawannado?"…Lippman calls The Most Dangerous Thing her "most autobiographical novel…in strict geographical terms," and her precise descriptions of Dickeyville and environs, past and present, make this one of her most poignant books.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Childhood friends, long since splintered off, uneasily reunite after the death of one of their own in Edgar-winner Lippman's superbly unsettling tale of the consequences of long-buried secrets. Gordon "Go-Go" Halloran drives his car into a wall after a night of drinking, even though he's been on the road to sobriety. On the brink of divorce, Gwen Robison returns home to care for her aging father and learns of Go-Go's death from his older brother, Sean. With the eldest Halloran brother, Tim, and a scruffy, nature-loving neighborhood girl, Mickey Wickham, the five had come together in the spring of 1977. The group broke apart after a violent encounter in the woods, an event that was never spoken of again, but permeates each of their lives. Lippman (I'd Know You Anywhere) cleanly shifts between the past, following the band of kids through their adventures in the woods of their Baltimore suburb, and the present when Go-Go's death draws them back together. Her series lead, Tess Monaghan, makes a brief appearance, but this stand-alone belongs to the children, their memories, and everything dangerous that lives in the woods. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Gwen, Mickey, Sean, Tim, and Gordon spent their childhood summers exploring the lushly wooded forest of Leakin Park. The five of them were inseparable until they encountered a run-down cabin deep in the woods and the mysterious man who lived there. From this chance encounter comes a tragedy that impacts their lives as well as those of their parents. When Gordon dies in a suspicious car crash years later, the surviving members of the quintet—now adults—reconnect and attempt to understand the events that took place more than 30 years before. Lippman's latest shifts between past and present and among the viewpoints of the five friends and their parents as it builds toward a surprising conclusion. VERDICT Edgar Award winner Lippman (I'd Know You Anywhere) returns with another stand-alone thriller that explores truth, lies, and the nature of childhood friendships. Although the story lacks some of the suspense and urgency of her most recent works, Lippman is an expert storyteller, and fans and mystery readers alike will appreciate her nuanced portrayal of life in small-town Maryland. [See Prepub Alert, 3/14/11.]—Amy Hoseth, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins
Kirkus Reviews

Childhood playmates can't quite put their past behind them in Lippman's tale of growing up too fast but not at all.

Like the five points of the star Go-Go Halloran can't get the knack of drawing, Go-Go, his brothers Tim and Sean, Gwen and Mickey seem joined even though each points in a different direction. Tomboy Mickey hates school, loves the outdoors and is neglected by her mother, a waitress with a taste for the wrong men. Pudgy Gwen worries that she'll never be attractive, and once she is, worries even more that she'll turn into her beautiful, sad mother Tally. Tim is a bit of a lout, Sean is the perfect gentleman, but neither gets much attention because their hyperkinetic younger brother Gordon, known to everyone in Dickeyville as Go-Go, snatches up every bit of the family's limited resources. Still, the five travel in unprecedented freedom throughout nearby Leakin Park, even though grown-up Gwen would never let her daughter Annabelle spend hours on end out of the sight of any adult. They hike, catch tadpoles and discover a strange man living in a ramshackle cabin in the heart of the park. But their greatest adventure is being together until disaster tears them apart. Years later, Go-Go's funeral reunites them briefly. Mickey has reinvented herself as McKey, a fearless flight attendant. Sean lives in Florida with his quietly domineering wife Vivian. Tim lives nearby with affectionate Arlene and takes care of his widowed mother Doris. But it's Gwen, the journalist, teetering on the brink of her second divorce, who forces them to reexamine their assumptions about their shared and broken bond.

No one explores the delicate interplay between children and the adults they grow into better than Lippman (I'd Know You Anywhere, 2010, etc.).

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062122926
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 575,642
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Lippman

Since her debut in 1997, Laura Lippman has been heralded for her thoughtful, timely crime novels set in her beloved hometown of Baltimore. She is the author of twenty works of fiction, including eleven Tess Monaghan mysteries. She lives in Baltimore, New Orleans, and New York City with her family.


Laura Lippman was a reporter for 20 years, including 12 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.

Biography from author's website.

Good To Know

In our interview, Lippman shared some fun and fascinating facts about herself:

"I can do an imitation of Ethel Merman singing ‘Satisfaction.'"

"I'm not a Baltimore native -- I arrived here about six years too late for that. But I love the fact that I've convinced the world that I am."

"Like my character, Tess Monaghan, I used to row. Unlike her, I was very, very bad at it."

"I've written eight books in my series -- one not yet published -- and a stand-alone crime novel, but my subject is always, on some level, Baltimore.

It's a problem-place, neither northern nor southern, somewhat addicted to nostalgia, yet amnesiac about the more dicey parts of its past. I used an epigraph from H. L. Mencken in one of my books: ‘A Baltimorean is not merely John Doe, an isolated individual of Homo sapiens, like every other John Doe. He is a John Doe of a certain place -- of Baltimore, of a definite home in Baltimore.' I am a person of a certain place, and that place happens to be Baltimore."

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    1. Hometown:
      Baltimore, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 31, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.S., Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, 1981

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 46 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 23, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved it

    I am a voracious reader who enjoys bestsellers, all types of literature and more. This is one of the best books I have ever read

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    a fascinating thriller

    In 1977 in the Baltimore suburb Dickeyville the three Halloran brothers (Gordon aka Go-Go, Tim and Sean), and their friends Gwen and Mickey did everything together especially in playing in Leakin Park. Go-Go the youngest of the siblings dominates his older brothers. Mickey the tomboy loved being outside perhaps because her mom has a propensity for nasty men. Overweight Gwen feared she will be ugly but also is scared that if she becomes a beauty like her mom she will be depressed and melancholy also like her mom. However, a violent tragedy in the woods ends their camaraderie.

    Three decades later, a recovering alcoholic, Go-Go is intoxicated when he drives his car into a wall. Tim lives nearby with his with his wife Arlene and his widowed mother Doris. Sean married to Vivian arrives from Florida. Mickey the flight attendant comes home for the funeral. Finally Gwen the reporter, as she is about to be divorced, forces the survivors to look at their childhood bond and what shattered it.

    The Most Dangerous Thing is a super look at the child is the adult as the incident in the woods is the final shaping of the quintet. Character driven as the five and other family members have diverse personalities, Laura Lippmann writes a deep look at childhood and adulthood. Tess Monaghan makes a cameo appearance, but her fans will still appreciate this strong glimpse at adults whose memories of childhood in 1977 make for a fascinating thriller.

    Harriet Klausner

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 19, 2011

    A nice twist

    They have been keeping a secret since childhood, and like most secrets do, it's haunting them. Five friends: Gwen, Mickey, Tim, Sean, and Go-Go never talk about what happened in the woods that day, and it inevitably stretched their friendship to the limit. Putting distance between them was the best way to forget. They aren't the only ones holding that information hostage though; some of the parents have held their tongues in hopes of protecting them too, but some secrets beg to be told. When one of the five friends dies they are brought together again to realize that there is a mystery lying under the truth that they have struggled to believe all along.
    This story is told from many character perspectives, jumping from past and present, giving the reader an inside view of their lives and how they saw the events unfold. That's an interesting way to approach a story, especially a mystery. The characters were described well enough for me to develop some love-hate opinions of them, and the twists at the end were refreshing and surprising. It's downfall for me was that the start was slow, as was the pacing. I would have enjoyed the story more if the pacing would have picked up some speed, but overall the characters and the surprising twists made this a good read. I would recommend this to anyone who appreciates mystery and to be shocked at the outcome.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2013


    It is not a mystery, it is slow and boring, Do not waste your money,

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2012

    A Disappointment

    Her worst book. Disjointed; with a plot that is lost among the excessive datails of the lives of secondary characters.
    Ms. Lippman stepped into a genre that is not her stronghold: the human nature.
    When I bought the book expected her great mystery work.
    I hope she goes back to it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Could you take a life altering secret to your grave?

    It was a different time growing up in the 70's and 80's you had the freedom to roam unsupervised and be independent in a way that will never happen again. A group of children met one summer with different backgrounds, home environments, and sexes never giving any of that a thought, only worrying about the next great adventure and challenge the parental boundaries.

    Tim, Sean and Gordon or "Go-Go" to everyone who knew him were the wild Halloran brothers who befriended two girls Mickey and Gwen and all of their lives took on new meaning. They were young when the escapades started and grew up together experimenting with finding out as much about each other as they did themselves. Go-Go was never as fast or quite as bright as the rest but he kept up even when they tried to lose him. They got into all manner of mischief including the discovery of an abandoned cabin with a strange man living inside. This man had no name and the mystery of who he was and where he came from was too intoxicating to this fearless five. The kids believed he was harmless, but that is the problem when you are young you trust everyone, sometimes the wrong one. Growing up was painful, when they parted it was with bitterness.

    After years of separation, the building of lives independent from each other they are reunited by Go-Go's sudden and horrific death. No one wants to believe it could be suicide but everyone thinks that his actions don't add up to accidental death. When the group of five now down to four start to remember the events of their time in the woods some of the secrets that should have stayed buried start to surface. Each of them knows something they don't want to share but no one can keep a secret and the four of them are determined to piece together what factor drove them apart and the one thing each of them wished had gone in a different direction.

    There was jealousy, manipulation, and some strange behavior but did any of that make the night of storm less real and more imagined?

    This book took me completely by surprise. Not that I did not think I was going to like the book as I am a Laura Lippman fan, but that she had taken her writing in a different direction. This book is gripping, suspenseful and feels too real for comfort but you can't put it down. Childhood stories are usually told as happy and wonderful times which is the white-washed version we remember, but when you peel back the layer what you find is not quite as innocent as we thought it was. My only objection was with some loose ends that did not get tied up enough for me but I am a close the book, close the story, and not have questions type of reader.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2014

    I enjoyed the various viewpoints of the characters, including th

    I enjoyed the various viewpoints of the characters, including the parents of Gwen and the boys--what SEEMS to be and what really IS are brought out quite entertainingly. I also listened to my library's audiobook because I enjoy Linda Emond's narration--she has recorded quite a number of Lippman books. A pretty good story.

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  • Posted July 8, 2012

    pretty good- a bit anxiety-provoking

    While the story is interesting, there are many, many human issues contained within it which I found to be a bit distracting from the main theme - produced some anxiety, also, which may be the intention as it shows reader involvement- wanted to finish to find out 'what happened' but perhaps not the best line-of-thought for folks who have great stressors in their real lives- NOT escapist fiction and NOT relaxing

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  • Posted May 19, 2012

    What a different read - friends who were impacted by a significa

    What a different read - friends who were impacted by a significant occurrence in their past, they are just finding out what really happened and how it changes the past. With three boys and two girls as best friends, you know there will be plenty of drama. Two will hook up and two will find themselves mixed up in major trouble, what can you expect when a group with girls and boys tries to maintain a friendship through the high school years.

    I loved the switch between telling the story through the past and the present, but the chapters of the past didn't give enough away to spoil the truly juicy ending. I always love a story that spends some time in the past, so you feel as though you are getting the full story. Although I was a little confused by the whole us and them, so I am conveniently skipping it.

    An interesting take on the suspense novel with only one death and a lot of relationships. I kept reading wanting to know what these friends had experienced and who knew the whole truth and who knew only the partial truth.

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  • Posted April 30, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Most Dangerous Thing

    This standalone novel from Laura Lippman was, to this reader, unlike anything this wonderful author had written to this point. [Among her more recent ones, “I’d Know You Anywhere” and “What the Dead Know” still stand out in my memory and resonate with me.] The present work is not really a mystery [although there is a death early on in the book] nor procedural, but instead a series of in-depth character studies which will be difficult to match.

    The author takes her time recreating and juxtaposing scenes from the past with those of the present, from the time when “everything was perfect until the moment it wasn’t,” in the lives of five youngsters in their early teens, three brothers and two young girls. Ultimately each of these, along with their parents and siblings and extended families, will have their own chapters, describing events which took place in 1980, in their native Baltimore, with p.o.v. changes from one character to another and from those early years to the present time, when most of them have grown children of their own, all of it shaped by one pivotal ‘incident’ [insert your own euphemism] which changes all of their lives forever. The reality of the events of that night is different for each of them, children and parents alike. And ultimately it is about secrets kept, or not.

    One of the three brothers, Gordon (“Go-Go”) Halloran, nine years old in 1980 and always the most reckless of the three, although presently two years sober, leaves the bar at which he has just fallen off the wagon and does not make it home alive, crashing into a wall at about 100 mph. There is a question about whether it was a tragic accident, or something somehow worse.

    I found this book [in which, btw, Tess Monaghan makes a cameo appearance] a departure for this author, and very thought-provoking. I suspect it too will stay in my memory for a long while. Parenthetically, I loved Ms. Lippman’s description of one perpetually angry character who, when counting to ten, started at nine. But there are many memorable moments, and personalities, here.


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  • Posted March 2, 2012

    I am a Lippman fan, but was disappointed with this book

    I am a Lippman fan, so looked forward to this book, not realizing that it wasn't a Tess Monaghan story. That was my first disappointment - I like Tess. It's also not much of a mystery - that was my second disappointment - I like mysteries much more than character-driven novels.

    I didn't find any of the characters especially likeable, but that was probably intended, and I got a little confused by all the changes of narrator (who narrated the last chapter, anyway?).

    I plodded through to the end (not because I bought the book, but because I had faith in Lippman) but finished it feeling ambivalent. I'll do more plot checking before I pick up her next book, and if it's not a Tess Monaghan story I'll probably pass on it.

    For those who haven't read any of Lippman's books before - give her another chance. Start with "Baltimore Blues."

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  • Posted November 24, 2011


    I have read Laura LIppman in the past, and it was a pretty good read. When I saw this reviewed in a magazine, I thought it looked interesting. Wrong. It was boring, poor storyline, many random torrents, and I had to force myself to finish it (thinking it would get better). I was wrong. It didn't get better. Don't waste your time or your money.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2011


    I read this book because it was reviewed and recommended by a popular magazine....I think they even gave it 5 stars, and for the life of me I cannot figure out why. The plot was weak, slow, rambling and downright confusing. It took me 2+ months to read, because I would become distracted and disengaged after 5 or so pages. Other reviewers have said this is a departure from Lippman's usual novels, but I don't think I have interest in the others after this....

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  • Posted October 21, 2011

    Along way to nowhere

    I read the entire book and still don't know the point or who is gay or who killed the guy in the cabin...besides, afterwards, who cares! One of her worse novels by far.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I kinda miss Tess....

    Laura Lippman is? another favourite author who has taken a break from their recurring character (Tess Monaghan) to pen another stand alone novel.

    The Most Dangerous Thing is the story of five childhood friends - Mickey, Gwen, Sean, Tim and Gordon aka Gogo - in the Baltimore area. They spend the summer of 1977 running through the woods near their homes, until a tragic event changes everything. Fast forward - Gogo has died and the others gather for the first time in twenty years. Was Gogo's death an accident or suicide? Could the events from that long ago time still be affecting the present? For each of them? What really happened? They never spoke of it aloud after that day.

    Each character (and a few more including the parents of the five) recounts their take on the event and what ripples and changes it may have caused in their lives. But the incident is not the only topic of each character - their hopes, dreams and disappointments are all fodder for each 'vignette'. Definitely a character driven novel.

    I chose to listen to this book in audio format and I'm glad I did. I don't honestly think I would have enjoyed it as much in written form. (Or would it have kept my interest) Listening to reader Linda Emond made it a little more intimate, more like listening to someones thoughts and conversations with themselves. Emond's voice has rich undertones. She reads in a well modulated tone and pace, conveying the introspection of each character well.

    The events of that day are central to the book and I wanted to find out what really happened. I don't think you could slot this book into any one category. There is a mystery, but It would also fit just as well into contemporary fiction - exploring the themes of friendship, betrayal, jealousy, guilt and much more.

    A cameo appearance by Tess Monoghan ensures that her life is moving forward and that we can hope to see a new book about her soon.

    The most dangerous thing?.......a secret?.....or the truth?......

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2011


    A book that draws you in bit by bit until you're staying up all night to finish it. I didn't see the ending coming.

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  • Posted September 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Not what I was hoping for and left disappointed!

    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.

    In the latest novel by Laura Lippman, The Most Dangerous Thing shows us the dark side of keeping secrets and that nothing good can ever come from them. No matter who you are trying to protect in the process there is nothing worth keeping a secret from those that should know the truth.

    I received this novel compliments of the William Morrow division of Harper Collins Publishers for my honest review. I have to say the first chapter was difficult to get through due to the large amounts of profanity the character of Gordon used in a drunken rage. The story chronicles the lives of five children who grew up together toggling back in forth between the 70's and present day so the reader can gain an understanding of who they each where and how their secret subsequently affected them in their current lives. The book does have at times a disconnect with the reader when it becomes difficult to figure out who is telling their story. I would have to rate this one a 3 out of 5 stars.

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  • Posted September 15, 2011

    Just Ok

    The transition of characters throughout the book was hit and miss. One minute you think you're reading about one person and then all of a sudden you're reading about another.

    I love most all of Laura Lippman's books but not so much this one. I knew the ending almost from the beginning.

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  • Posted September 11, 2011

    Where Is This Going?

    Not one of her best. Too much rambling. More of a character study than a mystery.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews

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