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Every Secret Thing: A Novel

Every Secret Thing: A Novel

3.9 11
by Laura Lippman

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From critically acclaimed, multiple-award winner Laura Lippman comes a riveting story of love and murder, guilt and innocence.

Two little girls banished from a neighborhood birthday party find an abandoned stroller with an infant inside on an unfamiliar Baltimore street. What happens next is shocking and terrible, causing the irreparable devastation of three


From critically acclaimed, multiple-award winner Laura Lippman comes a riveting story of love and murder, guilt and innocence.

Two little girls banished from a neighborhood birthday party find an abandoned stroller with an infant inside on an unfamiliar Baltimore street. What happens next is shocking and terrible, causing the irreparable devastation of three separate families.

Seven years later, Alice Manning and Ronnie Fuller, now eighteen, are released from “kid prison” to begin their lives over again. But the secrets swirling around the original crime continue to haunt the parents, the lawyers, the police, and all the adults in Alice and Ronnie’s lives. And now another child has disappeared, under freakishly similar circumstances.

Editorial Reviews

Charlotte News & Observer
“Laura Lippman can speak in any voice....This may be the best book I’ve read all year.”
Orlando Sentinel
“This is a standout. And the story of children in jeopardy and innocence lost is sadly all too timely.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
When two 11-year-old white girls kill a toddler, the granddaughter of a beloved back judge, it's not only shocking -- it's news. The girls' motives are muddled, and they disagree about which one of them killed the child, but Alice Manning and Ronnie Fuller both are found guilty and sentenced to spend the rest of their childhood in jail. The penal code can do no more, so seven years later Alice and Ronnie are released to begin their lives again…if they can. At first, when children start to disappear, they're quickly found unharmed, so the kidnappings go almost unnoticed -- until one little girl, also a toddler and the sister of the judge's murdered granddaughter, vanishes without a trace. Her mother is frantic -- and certain she knows whom to blame. The press and the police are swamped, digging into the evidence, past and present. Alice's lawyer is rushing to her defense. Ronnie is on the run. And the baby's time is running out…. Every Secret Thing is a powerful, intricately plotted stand-alone suspense novel from the author of the award-winning Tess Monaghan mystery series. Sue Stone
The New York Times
When Lippman finally provides a full explanation for these puzzling disappearances, along with the motives for the original crime, she does so artfully, drawing from her intensive psychological scrutiny of Alice and Ronnie, their mothers and social workers, and a bereaved woman who still wants vengeance for the loss of her child. — Marilyn Stasio
The Washington Post
… unraveling the mystery isn't Lippman's main concern. Instead, she seems more interested in exploring the psychology of two very different girls, one who would do anything -- literally -- to fit in with her peers and another who seems almost perversely incapable of doing so. Neither Alice nor Ronnie is particularly likable, but Lippman renders both girls with real sensitivity and insight. The image of the pair arguing over whether there's a desert in Oz is a priceless delight, though one shot through with more than a hint of malice. — Shannon Zimmerman
Publishers Weekly
With this engrossing mystery/suspense stand-alone novel, Lippman, winner of the Edgar, Shamus and Agatha awards for her series featuring likable heroine Tess Monaghan (Baltimore Blues; Charm City; The Last Place) solidifies her position in the upper tier of today's suspense novelists. Two 11-year-old children-good girl Alice Manning and bad girl Ronnie Fuller-wander homeward in Baltimore after being kicked out of a friend's pool party. They discover a baby in an unattended carriage by the front door of a house and steal it away. The reader watches in horror, knowing what will come next. The baby dies, and Alice and Ronnie are imprisoned for seven years. The mystery involves which girl did the killing, and which was the dupe. After release from prison, their blighted lives move inexorably toward further horror and tragedy. Lippman slowly relinquishes the facts of her story, building suspense as she reveals the past. Her well-honed prose is particularly suited to descriptions that impart more than just appearances: "Holly was one of those people who seemed to be put together with higher quality parts than everyone else"; "...there was something menacing in the very fineness of his bones, as if a bigger boy had been boiled down until all that remained was this concentrated bit of rage and bile." With this book, much darker than any in her past series, Lippman shows she is an author willing to take risks in both writing and storytelling. Her deft handling of this disturbing material is sure to increase the breadth of her readership. (Sept. 2) Forecast: Look for this one to garner critical praise with a sales boost to follow. Fans will hope to see series hero Tess Monaghan-who seemed a bit tired in her last outing-back on the page soon, reinvigorated from her time off. Major ad/promo; eight-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
With her first stand-alone novel (after seven mysteries featuring Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan, the latest being The Last Place), Lippman proves equally adept at character-based psychological suspense. Seven years after Olivia Barnes, a black baby from a prominent family, dies at the hands of two 11-year-old white girls, children start disappearing for brief periods. Then a three-year-old is presumed kidnapped, with bloody evidence left behind. Suspicion points toward the two girls convicted of the earlier crime, now newly released from juvenile detention: Alice Manning, the "good girl" who claimed she was not there when Olivia died, and Ronnie Fuller, the "bad girl" and presumed murderer. This is not easy subject matter, with children as both victims and perpetrators, but the novel is notable not only for Lippman's skill in creating complex female characters-particularly the mothers of Olivia and Alice as well as the two girls themselves-but also for her subtle way of building suspense by ever so gradually revealing the true accounts of both the earlier and the current crimes. Essential for popular fiction collections, particularly for fans of Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters.-Michele Leber, formerly with Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The creator of Tess Monaghan (The Last Place, 2002, etc.) crosses over in a chilling study of mothers, daughters, love, and murder. It sure wasn't what her wealthy parents had in mind when they sent her to study art in Baltimore, but Helen Manning thought single motherhood would be a kick. Too bad her job as an art teacher hadn't paid enough to buy a pool membership, forcing 11-year-old Alice to spend summers playing with public-school kids like Ronnie Fuller. Some days Ronnie was Good Ronnie, some days she was Bad Ronnie. One day, when they got sent home early from a pool party for misbehaving, Ronnie and Alice found Olivia Barnes, left asleep in her carriage on the porch by a careless babysitter. Now that they've been released, seven years later, by the juvenile-justice system for their unthinkable part in her murder, Olivia's mother, Cynthia Barnes, breaks her part of the plea bargain arranged by Sharon Kerpelman, Alice's public defender, stipulating that the names of the accused minors would never become public. Cynthia, daughter of one of Baltimore's most revered black judges, feels she has to protect her new baby Rosalind, conceived even as she mourned Olivia's loss. So when three-year-old Brittany Little disappears from Value City while her less-than-swift mother Maveen turns her back "for just a minute," Cynthia calls not only county detective Nancy Porter, but ambitious Beacon-Light reporter Mira Jenkins, who's dying to get back downtown after being rusticated for failing to check a story that was an obvious hoax. Hunted by press and police alike, Alice and Ronnie cross paths once more in a struggle to keep secret what just may turn deadly. Lucid, tight, and compelling. It'sLippman's gift to show the Good Ronnie and Bad Ronnie in every one of her characters, leaving no one unscathed and no one unredeemed. Author tour

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Every Secret Thing

A Novel
By Laura Lippman

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Laura Lippman All right reserved. ISBN: 0060506679

Chapter One

"Interesting," the ophthalmologist said, rolling away from Cynthia Barnes in his wheeled chair, like a water bug skittering for cover when the lights went on in the middle of the night.

"Not exactly my favorite word in a doctor's office." Cynthia tried to sound lighthearted. The metal apparatus was cold and heavy on her face, and although it wasn't literally attached, she couldn't help feeling as if she were in a vise. Each flick of the doctor's wrist - Better here? Or here? Here? Or here? - seemed to tighten the machine's grip on her.

"Good interesting," he said, rolling back to her. "Now, is it clearer with the first one or" - he flipped something, inserted something, she had never been sure what he was doing - "or this one."

"Could I see those again?" She sounded tentative, even to her ears, which shamed her. Cynthia still remembered what she was like back when she was always sure about things.

"Absolutely. This one" - the letter O, bold but a little wavy around the edges, as if it were underwater - "or this one." This O was not quite as bright, yet it was clearer.

"The second one?"

"There are no right answers here, Cynthia. An eye exam isn't a test." He chuckled at his own wit.

"The second one."

"Good. Now is it better with this one or" - another flip - "this one."

"The first one. Definitely the first one."


She felt a little glow of pride, then embarrassment for caring at all. She had arrived at the doctor's office on a wave of apologies, having skipped her annual exam for the last three years, despite the friendly little postcards that arrived every spring. She was AWOL from the dentist, too. And she might have passed on this eye exam, if it weren't for her younger sister's sly observation that Cynthia was squinting more often these days. "You keep straining like that, you're going to have one of those little dents," said Sylvia, who had never forgiven Cynthia for getting the one pair of green eyes in their generation. "Better reading glasses than Botox."

Cynthia had almost snapped: Get off my damn back, I've earned that dent. Instead she had made this appointment with Dr. Silverstein, who had moved to the northern suburbs since she saw him last.

Satisfied, Dr. Silverstein swung the machine off her face, returned her contact lenses to her, along with a tissue to catch the saline tears that flowed from the corners of her eyes. He was younger than she, it dawned on her. He must have just been starting out when she first went to him thirteen years ago. She wondered how those years had treated him, if his life had gone according to his expectations and plans.

"Well, I've seen this before, "Dr. Silverstein said, smiling so broadly that his dimples showed, "but I've seen few cases as pronounced as this."

Cynthia was not comforted by the smile. She had known too many people whose expressions had nothing to do with what they were about to say.

"What? What?" I'm going blind, I have a tumor behind one of my eyes, which explains the headaches. But she hadn't told Dr. Silverstein about the headaches. Should she?

"Your eyes are getting better, Cynthia. We see this sometimes in people who have worn contact lenses for a long time. Nearsightedness improves. You've been having trouble focusing on things because your contacts are old and pocked by protein deposits, not because you need a new prescription."

"What about reading glasses?"

"Not yet."

"Good. I've heard that if you get reading glasses, your close-up vision gets worse and worse."

"Ah, yes, that old wives'tale. It doesn't quite work that way." Dr. Silverstein picked up a model of the human eye, which Cynthia found disgusting. She hated to visualize what lay beneath the fragile veneer of skin, always had. She was nauseated at the sight of flattened squirrels and cats in her eighborhood, and a passing glimpse of one of those surgery shows on cable could send her into a near faint.

"There's a muscle that controls the lens of your eye, if you will. It gets rigid with age ... " His voice trailed off when he realized Cynthia was staring over his shoulder, refusing to make eye contact with him or his plastic model. "Anyway, no reading glasses yet, just a new contact lens prescription. These should be ready in a week. Should the nurse call you at home or at work?"

"Home. I haven't worked in years."

Dr. Silverstein blinked, suddenly awkward. He was one of the people who had never had a chance to say, "I'm sorry," because the tragedy was almost a year in the past by the time he saw her at her annual exam. Cynthia's life was full of such acquaintances, well-meaning types who had been left stranded by the tenuousness of their connection. Doctors, mechanics, accountants. She remembered the April immediately following, when Warren asked the accountant how one calculated for a dependent who had not survived the calendar year. Did they take the full credit, or did Olivia's death mean they had to prorate the deduction? For Warren and Cynthia, who had already asked a thousand questions they had never planned to ask - questions about burials and caskets and plots and the scars left by autopsies - it was just another dreary postscript. The accountant had looked so stricken she had wanted to comfort him.

She was beyond that now.


Excerpted from Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman
Copyright © 2003 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.

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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Every Secret Thing 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
jezebel_nj More than 1 year ago
This book is so good that I slowed down my reading because I don't want it to end... I've already purchased more of her books... enjoy it and savor it !!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read several of Laura Lippman's books and have yet to be disappointed. She has the 'double-whammy' of good plots and well-drawn characters. I have never found her books slow moving - on the contrary - I can hardly turn the pages fast enough.
SusieQDean More than 1 year ago
I agree w/another reviewer. I also slowed my reading pace to keep this gem of a book from ending. I was locked in from page one. The pace was positively dizzying. I agree that Cynthia does come off completely unsympathetic but that is my only gripe. I found Ronnie & Alice both engaging, interesting, & surprising. I enjoyed the way Ms. Lippman slowly fleshed out their individual personalities. My mind automatically assumed so many things & I was pleasantly surprised on more than occasion. I enjoy what I call a "twisty" book, and baby, this book is twisty. Try it. You'll be glad you did!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first Laura Lippman novel I've read, and on the whole it's an intriguing, well-thought out mystery/drama with some surprising twists and turns. That being said, there is one flaw that I simply could not overlook or ignore...the completey self-absorbed, unlikeable characters, especially Cynthia Barnes, the mother of the murdered baby Olivia. I wanted to feel sympathy for her for her loss, because what a terrible loss it was, but I just could not. The character of Cynthia was a cold, haughty, nasty woman who believed the world should revolve around her, and she was portrayed this way in flashbacks of her life even before her child was killed! There was nothing, NOTHING even remotely redeeming about her, and it numbs the story somewhat and hardens the readers to her plight, which is central to the story. And the rest of the characters aren't much better...they all seem to want to use the old tragedy and the new case solely to their advantage. All in all, Every Secret Thing is a unique story with plenty of suspense but regrettably awful characters. It's a flaw that can't be overlooked.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Every Secret Thing was a wonderful mystery. Lippman held a great amount of detail so that with every page, you felt like you were closer to knowing the plot. There are a lot of characters, which is a bit disorienting at first, but Lippman clearly describes each character's place in the novel, thus leading to great points of view.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'll admit I don't read many mysteries. I think this book has changed that -- it's sparked an interest in me. This book is absolutely awesome. I felt like I really got to know all the characters, that they were all fully rounded out rather than just being vague. Lippman works up to a very intriguing and unexpected climax. It was everything I wanted but didn't get from Tartt's _The Little Friend_. Like the Advanced Reader's Copy said, 'It's time you read Laura Lippman.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book started out promising but about half way through came to a hault. My first and probably last read by Lippman, the story just wasn't that original or worthwhile to me. I seen all the rave reviews on the paper back sleeve and thought hey...why not? But I'm more confused by the praise then by the actual book itself. Too slow moving and nothing that surprising going on in this book. At the end, who cares?