Book of Words: Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is… the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” — Mark Twain

This blog offers a different type of book review­—one that’s combined with vocabulary building. The words chosen may be familiar, but used in a unique way or not commonplace.

Included here, following a short review, are a few interesting words I found in Wilde Lake, a book released earlier this year by author Laura Lippman. Lippman, a best-selling author and absolutely superb storyteller, is one of my very favorite writers.

Wilde Lake is the story of a family, a family full of secrets. It’s also a tale about prejudice and how we may try to deny its existence but cannot truly shed the ingrained natuimg_2597re of it in our society, and in turn, ourselves. Lippman’s skill at pulling multiple tentacles of a story together thrives in this tale, but she eloquently succeeds at something unique even for her. The story is told from the perspective of one character, but some of it comes to us in the first-person account of a remembered childhood, while the rest is told in third-person present tense as all those story tentacles come together for Lu Brant, a newly elected state’s attorney. The combination of first and third person from the same protagonist is so competently handled that I didn’t catch it until well into the book. It seems to bring a more intimate view into the life unfolding in Wilde Lake. The unique characterization provides a deeper grasp of what is happening in Lu Brant’s life as she digs into her own family history while sorting out the facts of her first capital murder case in her new position. The layers of revelations and connections to Brant’s past keep the pages turning. From the book jacket: “If there is such a thing as the whole truth, Lu realizes—possibly too late—that she would be better off not knowing what it is.”

Words from Wilde Lake:

Suborn: v. bribe or otherwise induce (someone) to commit an unlawful act such as perjury. “They might have been led during the interviews. But I don’t think my father suborned perjury, not over so trivial a thing.”

 Ascetic: adj. characterized by or suggesting the practice of severe self-discipline and abstention from all forms of indulgence, typically for religious reasons. “AJ stands, walks to the edge of his pool. A lap pool, he defended to Lu when she mocked this expense by ascetic.” AND “He then made his own Eat, Pray, Love pilgrimage around the world, although ascetic AJ skipped the eating part.”

 Canard: n. an unfounded rumor or story. “Everyone knows the old canard that an attorney never asks a question to which she doesn’t know the answer, but that’s for court, after investigations, depositions, discovery.”

 Polemics: n. a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something. “’No,’ he says adamantly. ‘No more polemics disguised as memoirs.’”

 Ersatz: adj. (of a product) made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else. “Heck, her father has had an ersatz wife in Teensy all these years.”

 Imprecation: n. a spoken curse. “The EMT guys decide to let her go home, although with muttered imprecations about concussions, and while Lu scoffs at them, she finds herself unaccountably nervous as bedtime nears.”

 Perambulate: v. walk or travel through or around (a place or area), esp. for pleasure and in a leisurely way. “’Your house? No, I just­—I just sometimes like to . . . perambulate,’ Davey said.”

 Frisson: n. a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill. “Lu feels a strange frisson of nerves when she goes before the grand jury to obtain a formal indictment against Rudy Drysdale.”

 Nascent: adj. (esp. of a process or organization) just coming into existence and beginning to display signs of future potential. “I wish he had saved his nascent memoir. I would have loved to read his version of his life, then and now.”

 Scrim: n. strong, coarse fabric, chiefly used for heavy-duty lining or upholstery. “As the song reached its climax, a scrim depicting the Tree of Life fell and somehow it seemed as if the chorus had become a living, breathing Tree of Life.”

Pejorative: adj. expressing contempt or disapproval, or n. a word expressing contempt or disapproval. “The original ‘villages’ of Columbia are now called the ‘inner villages,’ and the pejorative echo of inner city is not accidental.”

 Dilettante: n. a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge. “During the campaign, Fred called her a dilettante, tried to suggest that she wanted his job so she wouldn’t be bored.”

Definitions are typically from The New Oxford American Dictionary.

What interesting words have you taken note of lately? What do you do when you come across an unfamiliar word while reading?

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Laura Lippman to be at Eureka’s Books in Bloom

I’m so excited to hear Laura Lippman speak this Sunday at Books in Bloom in Eureka Springs. I intend to be there and pick up a copy of her new book, Wilde Lake while I’m at it.

I reviewed After I’m Gone a couple of years ago on this blog, and I’m confident I’ll enjoy her new book just as much. That confidence comes from the fact that I’ve yet to be disappointed with a Lippman story. She is one hell of a storyteller. Her characters are always rich, and her plots very well woven together with surprises along the way.

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My library includes plenty of Laura Lippman books, and I’ve read a few of them more than once.

After I wrote that review and noted that I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Lippman years ago, I was thrilled when she sent me a note stating she remembered meeting me. I attended “Of Dark and Stormy Nights,” a conference held in Chicago by Mystery Writers of America where she spoke. I was absolutely delighted when we happened to share a shuttle to O’Hare Airport at the end of the conference. I talked to her about my book idea, and she told me to go for it, to write the book about a corrupt prison system, a serial killer and a reporter from the Ozark Mountains who puts it all together. That book, A Lovely County, came out last year. The second one in the series is due out in November. Pen-L Publishing is set to release A Lovely Murder in November, and I’m now writing the third one, A Lovely Grave.

I plan to take a copy of A Lovely County to Lippman this weekend and hope to be able to pass it to her! Wish me luck, because I’d love to personally thank Laura Lippman for encouraging me and teaching me by example about good plotting.

 

Laura Lippman Offers Another Great Read

Photo by Lori Ericson

Photo by Lori Ericson

Laura Lippman has the ability to put together a mystery plot like a tightly stitched patchwork quilt with a mixture of fabulous fabrics that you want to wrap yourself in and never let go. I get to the end of one of her books and am always amazed at how the story comes together with twists and turns around amazingly real characters that are fleshed out in revealing layers. This is particularly the case in her 2014 novel After I’m Gone.

The story easily jumps around a time period spanning several decades of family life, albeit a unique family life. Told from the perspective of five different family members and a few additional key characters, each reveals human qualities that bring out the best and worst innermost workings of heart and soul.

It’s a story of love, greed and betrayal as Felix Brewer creates a life of luxury for Bambi Gottschalk and their three daughters with somewhat shady business dealings that eventually catch up with him. He takes the chicken’s way out, avoids the penitentiary, leaving behind his family and a lover, along with a briefcase full of instructions and clues to where enough money is stashed to keep them living in style. But his family never knows about that briefcase and are left wondering if his mistress is the only one he cared enough about to provide something to sustain her in the wake of his departure. When she disappears exactly ten years after Felix vanished, it’s assumed that she has joined him on some tropical island. Years later her body is discovered. That discovery brings out secrets the Brewer women have kept from each other that nearly cost them all, until one of Felix’s women puts it all together. She finds that long-held desire created the mess and robbed her family of a life they deserved.

After I’m Gone is an excellent read, a complex mystery that won’t disappoint. The reader is likely to be slapping their forehead as the story unfolds in the end. I find myself doing that often at the end of Lippman’s books. I particularly like her standalone novels, but her Tess Monaghan series is also worth every turn of the page.

In full disclosure here, I had the pleasure of meeting Laura Lippman years ago. I attended “Of Dark and Stormy Nights,” a conference held in Chicago by Mystery Writers of America. I was fascinated to hear one of my favorite writers explain her craft, but absolutely delighted when we happened to share a shuttle to O’Hare Airport at the end of the conference. And, of course, I took a few precious moments of her time and shared a story idea I had brewing in my brain. She told me to go for it, to write the book about a corrupt prison system, a serial killer and a reporter from the Ozark Mountains who puts it all together. That book, A Lovely County, is coming out in a few months, and I’d like to thank Laura Lippman for encouraging me to get it written. I can only hope to be a Lippman kind of writer that keeps readers enthralled until the final page.

Lippman eBook Price Finally Makes Sense

When I checked Amazon earlier this month to download the new book by one of my favorite mystery writers I was shocked to see the price of $15.99 on the eBook, which was higher than the $11.51 for the paperback and just 20 cents less than the $16.19 hardcover!

photo-25I posted a complaint on Laura Lippman’s Facebook page and vowed not to buy the new book. I also noted other complaints about the price of “After I’m Gone.”

I’ve bought nearly every book Lippman has written. If not in paperback, I have it on my Kindle. I decided I’d be borrowing this one from the local library. Thankfully, the price is now down to $11.19. I saw a note by another reader that it had dropped to $13.59 at one point since the February 11 release before coming down more than $2.

It’s still high for an eBook, but at least it’s now appropriately less than the paperback. And, of course, it’s Lippman and likely to be a fantastic read, so I’ll buy at this price.

I don’t know what drives the price of eBooks, so I asked the owner of a small publishing house. He uses the profit margin of a book to determine the eBook cost. Asked why a publisher might price an eBook at more than a paperback, he said, “Because they can.”

I’ve downloaded freebies and paid a little over $10 for eBooks, but it has to be a book I’m clamoring to read before I’ll pay that much. I recently bought John Grisham’s new “Sycamore Row” for a great price at $6.49, which was $3.50 less than the paperback on Amazon and a fantastic story!

Checking the New York Times top five bestselling books in fiction for the week of March 3, I found the following on Amazon:

  • “Private L.A.” by James Patterson sells for $11.99 on Kindle, $12.24 in paperback and $16.80 in hardcover
  • “Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt sells for $7.50 on Kindle, $16.95 in hardcover with no paperback offer
  • “Killer, An Alex Delaware Novel” by Jonathan Kellerman sells for $11.48 on Kindle, $20.59 in paperback, and oddly $16.80 in hardcover
  • “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd sells for $10.91 on Kindle, $16.63 in paperback with the hardcover at just 14 cents more
  • “Still Life with Bread Crumbs” by Anna Quindlen sells for $10.65 on Kindle, $14 in paperback

I would encourage publishers and writers to realize the impact of price. Readers may be big fans, but cost will influence most of us when deciding whether to buy your book.

What’s your price limit on a book? If you’re a writer how do you decide pricing?

Photo by Lori Ericson