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To the Power of Three: A Novel
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To the Power of Three: A Novel

4.5 15
by Laura Lippman

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“Powerful….A gripping tale that is a mystery only in the same sense as To Kill a Mockingbird was….Brilliant, insightful, moving.”
Chicago Sun-Times

There are excellent reasons why New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman has won the Edgar®, Agatha, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, and every other


“Powerful….A gripping tale that is a mystery only in the same sense as To Kill a Mockingbird was….Brilliant, insightful, moving.”
Chicago Sun-Times

There are excellent reasons why New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman has won the Edgar®, Agatha, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, and every other major award the mystery genre has to offer. To the Power of Three is just one of those reasons. Lippman’s brilliant and disturbing tale of three inseparable high school girlfriends in an affluent Baltimore suburb who share dark secrets literally until death, To the Power of Three is this “writing powerhouse” (USA Today), who has “exploded the boundaries of the mystery genre to become one of the most significant social realists of our time” (Madison Smartt Bell) operating at the very top of her game. Not merely crime fiction, but fiction that gets to the deep psychological, emotional, and human roots of a terrible crime, Lippman’s novel is one that will not be easily forgotten—a must read for fans of Kate Atkinson, Tana French, Jodi Picoult, and Harlan Coben

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Three longtime friends alone in a girls' bathroom on the last day of high school: Kat, the beautiful brainiac; Josie, the star athlete; and Perri, the drama queen. One shot dead, one in a coma, the other seriously wounded. What transpired between the self-proclaimed divas of the school: and what deep, dark secret is the one conscious survivor hiding?

The three girls, who have been inseparable since the third grade, had "trumped the system" and built a friendship that transcended the confines of their high school's cliques. Pledged to take care of each other and do good deeds in the world whenever possible, the girls had quickly become the luminaries of their Baltimore County school. Kat Hartigan was the beloved Stanford-bound homecoming queen. Josie Patel was headed to Maryland on a gymnastics scholarship. Perri Kahn had accepted a theatre scholarship to Northwestern. With everything to live for, what had possessed one of them to try to kill the other two, then herself? When Homicide Sergeant Harold Lenhardt begins to investigate the seemingly clear-cut case, he finds much more than he ever bargained for…

To the Power of Three -- equal parts coming-of-age tale, suburban murder mystery, and psychological thriller -- is a heartrending novel about childhood friendship and the perils of growing up that is certain to deeply affect everyone who reads it. Intense, thought provoking, and with a jaw-dropping bombshell of a conclusion, this bittersweet story is a page-turner of the highest order. Paul Goat Allen

Marilyn Stasio
… what Lippman is really going for here is an analysis of teenage friendship and how cultural pressures can twist it into something so ugly it becomes lethal. She shows great empathy for the smart, fiercely independent Perri, the desperate-to-please Josie, and a few students like Eve Muhly, the ''redneck'' farmer's child whose need for acceptance makes her the perfect victim for vicious peer pranks. Eve might not be in the same social league as Kat, but she carries herself far more believably than that shadowy ideal girl, and whenever she's on the scene, the ritual cruelties of high school take on a savage sting.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The trouble with writing the Tess Monaghan mysteries is that fans want more, more, more. Lippman scored big with her 2003 stand-alone, Every Secret Thing, but this one doesn't pack the same punch. Here's Baltimore-outlying Glendale, anyway. Here are two terrific cops: Sgt. Harold Lenhardt, the family man, and his partner, Kevin Infante, who dates babes. But where's a woman to inspire and worry us, as Tess does? Lippman's latest teems with female characters, but none whose POV elicits strong emotion. Since third grade, three girls have been best friends: rich, pretty Kat Hartigan, athletic Josie Patel and dramatic Perri Kahn. Now high school seniors, they've come to a gruesome end in the girls' bathroom. Kat is dead. Perri, the presumptive shooter, is missing half her face. Josie has a bullet in her left foot. She alone can talk, and it's clear to Lenhardt that she's lying. Lippman zigzags her way to the moment of truth. Some of the scenes are wonderfully well told, and Lippman, as always, neatly skewers people in power (the school principal tells a 911 dispatcher, "I wouldn't characterize it so much as a school shooting... but as a shooting at the school"). But this novel doesn't so much rise above genre as make one miss it. Agent, Vicky Bijur. (July) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Kat, Josie, and Perri have been best friends since childhood, so everyone at their high school is shocked when they are involved in an early-morning shooting in the girls' restroom. One is left dead, another is in critical condition, and the third is telling a tale inconsistent with the evidence. Detective Harold Lenhardt thinks this should be an open-and-shut case-until he tries to figure out what dark secret was powerful enough to jeopardize the girls' loyalty to one other and to what lengths the remaining girl will go to keep the truth hidden. In swift prose, Lippman (By a Spider's Thread) builds believable characters and palpable suspense. With flashbacks and a shifting perspective revealing layer after layer of deceit and manipulation, however, the conclusion feels a little anticlimactic. Still, fans of suspense fiction won't be disappointed with this solid addition to the genre. Suitable for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/05.]-Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Orlando Sentinel
“Lippman is a pro at finding fresh way to tell compelling stories.”
Kate Atkinson
“Wonderfully paced, realyl well crafted....The best book of hers that I’ve read.”
Nick Hornby on Every Secret Thing
“Every Secret Thing is an American-cheeseburger version of Highsmith’s bloody filet mignon, and that suited me fine.”

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To the Power of Three

By Laura Lippman

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Laura Lippman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060506725

Chapter One

People would want to know what she was thinking, the night before. They always do, or think they do -- but in her case they would have been disappointed. Because by the night before, the thinking was long over and she was preoccupied mainly with logistics. Planning, preparing, packing. Finding her old knapsack, an orange-and-black JanSport she hadn't used for months, not since Christmastime.

Knapsacks had gone out of fashion that spring at Glendale High School, at least among the stylish girls. The divas, as they were known -- they had bestowed the name on themselves and considered it laudatory -- had taken to carrying plastic totes in bright primary colors, see-through and flimsy. Even the namebrand versions, the ones that cost upwards of a hundred dollars, buckled under the weight the divas expected them to carry. But then it's a myth that more expensive things are better made -- or so her father always said, whenever she expressed a desire for something trendy. At the mall she had seen diva mothers storm into Nordstrom or Hecht Co., proclaiming the totes defective. "What was she using it for?" skeptical salesladies inquired, examining the torn and stretched-out handles beneath the fluorescent lights. "The usual," lied the mothers. "Girl stuff."

In the end the salesladies didn't care if the mothers stretched the truth as far as those rubbery handles, because they always left with even more merchandise -- not only a replacement tote or two but those hideous Louis Vuitton billfolds that were so unfathomably popular that spring, maybe a small cosmetic bag in the same distinctive-tacky pattern. They needed cosmetic bags because the totes had another design flaw. The not-quite-opaque plastic allowed the world to see whatever one carried. Forget trying to bring Tampax to school, or even a hairbrush. (She had always considered hairbrushes one of the more horrible secrets that regular purses kept -- oily, matted with hair, shedding those strange little scales.) Yet perhaps that was the very source of the totes' cachet: To use one, you had to pretend you had no secrets, that your life was an open book -- or, more correctly, a seethrough purse. You couldn't put anything in those totes that you didn't want other people to glimpse.

Especially a gun, no matter how small. Even a gun wrapped in a scarf, as hers would be.

The problem was that she, too, had abandoned her knapsack earlier that school year, although she was not one to follow the trends, quite the opposite. She had different reasons for retiring her trusty JanSport. I am putting away childish things, she told herself in November, having been reminded of that Bible verse while rereading a favorite childhood novel. Her mother had gotten a canvas bag at Barnes & Noble, one with Emily Dickinson's face, and she had co-opted it for a joke, just to test how ignorant everyone was. ("Is that someone you know?" "Is that you?" "A relative?") She hadn't planned to use it every day, but then her parents began to nag, said she was going to throw her spine out of alignment or damage the nerves in her shoulder. Then she had to keep using it, if only to prove to them that it was her spine, her nerves, her life.

Except the Emily Dickinson bag was forever falling over, scattering its contents. She couldn't afford such accidents or missteps, not on the day she took her gun to school.

She finally found her knapsack at the back of her closet, and it was a kind of relief to be reunited with her old, practical friend. She dampened a paper towel and ran it over the bag's insides, removing debris from last fall -- cookie crumbs, specks of chocolate, a lone Brazil nut, which would have been there since September, when she tried to go vegan and lasted all of a week. She had carried this knapsack for four years, from fall of eighth grade to the fall of twelfth grade, and its surface -- the names and former loyalties inked onto its orange nylon, the rips and tears -- was a vivid reminder of how much she had changed. You probably shouldn't get tattooed, her mother always said. You don't know who you're going to be when you're thirty. But a tattoo can be concealed, or even removed with lasers. Piercings close up if you give them enough time. A knapsack covered with embarrassing sentiments in permanent ink could only be discarded or replaced. Her parents would have purchased her a new one if she had only explained her reasons, but that was one thing she hadn't dared to do. She was tired of explaining herself.

Once the bag was clean inside, she surveyed the things laid out on her bed. There was her notebook, the take-home test for Mrs. Downey, her independent study project for Ms. Cunningham. And there was the gun, wrapped in a silk scarf from the old dressup chest.

The gun had been in her possession for almost a month, but the mere sight of it still shocked her. It was so like the toy sixshooter she had begged for when she was little, not even four. Why had she yearned for a gun, a holster, and a cowboy hat at such an age? She had wanted to be Calamity Jane or Annie Oakley, marching around the house singing "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better." Yes, it was queer, but then everyone was queer when little. And maybe she had wanted to shock her parents, who weren't hippies but were antiwar, even this current one, which a lot of Glendale parents had said was okay when it started.


Excerpted from To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman Copyright © 2005 by Laura Lippman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Since Laura Lippman’s debut, she has won multiple awards and critical acclaim for provocative, timely crime novels set in her beloved hometown of Baltimore. Laura has been nominated for more than 50 awards for crime fiction and won almost 20, including the Edgar. Her books have been translated into over twenty languages. Now a perennial New York Times bestselling author, she lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her family.

Brief Biography

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

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To the Power of Three 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
ragingval More than 1 year ago
It was a really well told story. I did not see the ending coming. I couldn't wait to share it w/ friends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love Lippman's books, but I was so surprised how wonderful this non-Tess book was. The layout kept me guessing til the end, which I found very satisfying. Much richer than the Tess books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great thriller -- with a surprise twist. Makes a nice 'beach' read and has a captivating story line.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book! I read Every Secret Thing and I couldn't wait to read this one...it was so good...hooked me from beginning to end.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The plot was alright. None of the characters were believable or even likeable and there were a few characters that weren't really relevant to the story. The final result wasn't surprising enough it was just simple which is a bummer especially since you have to go through all those cliffhangers to find a regular end.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Since they were in third grade Kat Hartigan, Josie Patel and Perri Kahn were the best of friends doing everything together and letting nobody in their magic circle. Josie was the follower glad that she had these two friends; everyone loved Kat and was willing to do whatever she wanted and Peri lived her life by her own principles. They were inseparable until their last year in high school when it became obvious that Perri snubbed Kat. --- One day the three girls met in the bathroom and by the time their encounter ended, Kat was dead, Perri was injured and lapsed into a coma, Josie was shot in the foot. Josie tells police that Perri brought the gun to school and killed Kat and shot her when she tried to take the gun away from her and then shot herself. The students, teachers and the town are affected by the tragedy but the police assigned to the case don¿t believe Josie is telling all she knows because the evidence doesn¿t quite match the story. With Kat dead and Perri near death, only Josie knows the truth and she isn¿t talking. --- Laura Lippman¿s latest work is exceptional not only because it is a fantastic crime thriller told from the viewpoints of the surviving victim, the police, and the parents of the three seniors but because she makes a strong case for responsible gun control. The whole tragedy could have been averted if the owner of the gun showed some responsibility with a teenager in the house. Believable characters starring in a conceivable scenario make TO THE POWER OF THREE a powerful reading experience.--- Harriet Klausner