To the Power of Three: A Novel

To the Power of Three: A Novel

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 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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062205803
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/31/2012
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 270,476
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Since Laura Lippman's debut in 1997, she has been recognized as a distinctive voice in mystery fiction and named one of the "essential" crime writers of the last 100 years. Her books have won most of the major awards in her field and been translated into more than twenty languages. She lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her family.


Baltimore, Maryland

Date of Birth:

January 31, 1959

Place of Birth:

Atlanta, Georgia


B.S., Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, 1981

Read an Excerpt

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.

Table of Contents

Book Description

Laura Lippman is one of the most acclaimed authors of crime fiction writing today, the winner of every major award the genre has to offer. Now she dazzles once again with a riveting stand-alone novel that takes on the secret -- and not-so-secret -- lives of teenage girls, illuminating a dark tragedy with startling clarity and unique empathy.

To the Power of Three

The three girls have been inseparable best friends since the third grade -- Josie, the athletic one; Perri, the brilliant, acerbic drama queen; and Kat, the beauty, who also has brains, grace, and a heart open to all around her. But their last day of high school becomes their final day together after one of them brings a gun to school to resolve a mysterious feud. When the police arrive, they discover two wounded girls, one so critically that she is not expected to recover. The third girl is dead, killed instantly by a shot to the heart.

What transpired that morning at Glendale High rocks the foundation of an affluent community in Baltimore's distant suburbs, a place that has barely recovered from an earlier, more comprehensible tragedy. For the shell-shocked parents, teachers, administrators, and students, healing must begin with answers to the usual questions -- but only if the answers are safe ones, answers that will lead back to one girl and one family and absolve everyone else.

For Homicide Sgt. Harold Lenhardt, this case is a mystery with more twists than these grief-stricken suburbanites are willing to acknowledge -- and the sole lucid survivor, a girl with a teenager's uncanny knack for stonewalling, strikes him as being less than honest. What is she concealing? Is she trying to protect herself or someone else? Even the simplest secrets can kill -- and kill again if no one is willing to confront them.

Breathtaking in its emotional depth, powerful, provocative, and consistently surprising, Laura Lippman's To the Power of Three carries the crime novel into richer, more fertile territory. It is the crowning achievement to date in an already exemplary literary career.

Critical Praise

"Every Secret Thing is an American-cheeseburger version of Highsmith's bloody filet mignon, and that suited me fine." --Nick Hornby on Every Secret Thing

"Wonderfully paced, realyl well crafted....The best book of hers that I've read." --Kate Atkinson, author of Case Histories

"Lippman is a pro at finding fresh way to tell compelling stories." --Orlando Sentinel

What People are Saying About This

Kate Atkinson

“Wonderfully paced, realyl well crafted....The best book of hers that I’ve read.”

Customer Reviews

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To the Power of Three 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great book! I read Every Secret Thing and I couldn't wait to read this was so good...hooked me from beginning to end.
citygirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Why: I try to be open-mind about mysteries and thrillers published in mass paperback if it¿s an author I don¿t know, but I don¿t really succeed. I chose this one because I¿ve recently become addicted to HBO¿s soulful, gritty show, The Wire, alternately heartbreaking and hilarious. Dennis Lehane and Richard Price have written for the Wire. Lippman is married to the show¿s creator/head writer, David Simon. Now I know you cannot assume one spouse¿s talent in an area matches the other (e.g., Dave Navarro and Carmen Electra; Roseanne and Tom Arnold; Whitney and Bobby; Ricky and Lucy Ricardo). But frequently they are in the same league: James Carville and Mary Matalin; Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins; Kurt and Courtney? (But I for one think Live Through This is brilliant and I do not think Kurt wrote it. Sexist!)I digress.Based on the reading of this one book, Lippman is not in her husband¿s league. It is not a bad book, not at all. I turned the pages very quickly. I wanted to know whodunnit and why. It¿s just that after years of reading mysteries with literary aspirations and literary fiction that deals in clues and bodies, a straight genre mystery/thriller seems flat. The characters could have come from Central Casting; they had very few insights; they didn¿t view the world through apt and original metaphors; and I won¿t remember any of their names next week.I don¿t regret the experience, but I¿ll be looking for new mystery writing elsewhere.
lenoreva on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Best friends Josie, Perri and Kat go into the bathroom at their high school. Shots are fired. One emerges with a minor injury, one with a life-threatening one, and one is dead. What happened is the mystery at the heart of this riveting thriller.After What the Dead Know, I was excited to read another thriller by Laura Lippman. This one had wonderful character development ¿ I really got to know the three girls as well as a great many secondary characters (such as the huffy, hypochondriac school secretary, rendered so well in just two short scenes). It was well paced and very readable. BUT ¿ and this is a giant but ¿ the reveal is just lame, which is a big letdown after getting so into the story. It¿s hard to recommend any book that has an unsatisfactory ending, but for a thriller, it¿s especially problematic. If a subpar ending to an otherwise well written and exciting story doesn¿t bother you, go for it, but if it does, you might want to steer clear.
GJbean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Love Laura Lippman. High school group of thee girls, one girl brings a gun shoots Cat Hartigan dead and figure out the rest. A bit slow.
Darla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story starts with three teenage girls, Perri, Josie, and Kat, locked in a school bathroom with a gun--Kat's dead; Perri has been shot in the face and is not expected to live; Josie's been shot in the foot. It appears that Perri killed Kat, then Perri and Josie struggled over the gun and Josie was shot, then Perri turned the gun on herself.But the evidence doesn't add up: why are there bloody footprints leading away from the locked door? Where are Josie's shoes? Where are all three girls' cell phones?The book bounces all over place and time, between different POVs, delving deep into each one, showing the development of the girls' friendship until a year earlier when there's an abrupt break between Perri and Kat. And despite the nonlinear progression of the story, it works, for the most part, because the psychological suspense is high and the characters are realistic and familiar (at least to anyone who is, has, or has been a teenage girl).My only problems were first, that there were a few too many characters, too many POVs. I didn't see a lot of point to teacher Alexa Cunningham's POV, for example--her scenes were very in-depth, but she seemed to be only peripherally involved, if at all, in the events leading up to the shooting.And then there was the ending. I don't want to spoil it, but it felt flat and anticlimactic. And maybe that was the point--that life doesn't always have a dramatic point. I can accept that--it just doesn't make me love the book.Overall, I loved the feel of the book: that somewhat dream-hazed, suspenseful, close-up portraits of how 3 teenage girls ended up dead or wounded. If it had been a movie, it would be an artsy one, with lots of out-of-focus close-ups. It's different from my usual reading, which is always a good thing, and I was really immersed in it up until nearly the very end.
wyvernfriend on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This reminded me of Jodi Picoult. First you know what happens and then the author unravels the motive and story. Interesting and involving it makes you think about the power of popularity and the problems when people feel a need to fit in spaces they shouldn't.Josie, Perri and Kat are best friends. When one of them comes into school with a gun, one dies, one is seriously injured and another wounded. Who is to blame and why did they do this. It also discusses some of the issues of what happens when best friends drift apart.
DreamingInFiction on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't really enjoy this book so much, every chapter (and sometimes more then one in each chapter) was a different lead character and some flashback chapters. It was really confusing and the outcome just wasn't wasn't worth it all to me.
bookwormteri on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Three girls, best friends since grade school, are involved in a high school shooting. When the police get the bathroom door open, one is fatally wounded, one dead, and the other has a gunshot in her foot. How did this happen? Maybe more importantly, why?I absolutely could not put this book down, I HAD to know what had happened between these three girls. This was a gripping novel and does not disappoint.
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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.
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