In 1966, Baltimore is a city of secrets that everyone seems to know—everyone, that is, except Madeline “Maddie” Schwartz. Last year, she was a happy, even pampered housewife. This year, she’s bolted from her marriage of almost twenty years, determined to make good on her youthful ambitions to live a passionate, meaningful life.
Maddie wants to matter, to leave her mark on a swiftly changing world. Drawing on her own secrets, she helps Baltimore police find a murdered girl—assistance that leads to a job at the city’s afternoon newspaper, the Star. Working at the newspaper offers Maddie the opportunity to make her name, and she has found just the story to do it: a missing woman whose body was discovered in the fountain of a city park lake.
Cleo Sherwood was a young black woman who liked to have a good time. No one seems to know or care why she was killed except Maddie—and the dead woman herself. Maddie’s going to find the truth about Cleo’s life and death. Cleo’s ghost, privy to Maddie’s poking and prying, wants to be left alone.
Maddie’s investigation brings her into contact with people that used to be on the periphery of her life—a jewelry store clerk, a waitress, a rising star on the Baltimore Orioles, a patrol cop, a hardened female reporter, a lonely man in a movie theater. But for all her ambition and drive, Maddie often fails to see the people right in front of her. Her inability to look beyond her own needs will lead to tragedy and turmoil for all sorts of people—including the man who shares her bed, a black police officer who cares for Maddie more than she knows.
My Thoughts: Lady in the Lake takes the reader to mid-sixties Baltimore, spotlighting issues from the times. A woman who suddenly leaves her long-standing marriage is seeking a life of her own and finds herself thrust into a murder investigation and a fledgling career on a newspaper that changes her perspective on the world around her. Women’s issues, racial injustice, and finding one’s way in a changing world keep Maddie going on her journey, although her needs and desires take precedence over those of others, making her seem self-centered.
It was hard to like Maddie, even though I could relate to her feelings on some level, having lived through those changing times. Alternating narrators led us through the lives of peripheral characters, including the apparent “ghost” of Cleo Sherwood. Maddie’s obsession with that woman did show a side of her that took her outside of her own needs for a time. I enjoyed seeing how events unfolded and found the resolution intriguing. 4.5 stars.