The Most Dangerous Thing (Morrow)
Lippman cranks out novels at a pace that makes Stephen King look like a slacker but still manages to up the ante with each book. Dangerous Thing unfolds briskly as it shifts from a tragic death among a group of old friends to revelations about a childhood secret that binds them together. They now have families and careers—one character, Gwen, edits Baltimore magazine—and must deal with grown-up realities like raising children, holding marriages together, and coming to grips with a troubling episode from their past. Lippman moves back and forth in time, portraying the youngsters with pitch-perfect sensitivity. She sensationalizes nothing, opting instead for an insular sense of mystery and discovery that’s richly underscored by the book’s Dickeyville setting. And when Lippman works a certain private investigator into the story, you know she’s at the height of her powers.
Jessica Elfenbein, Thomas Hollowak, and Elizabeth Nix (editors)
Baltimore ’68 (Temple)
The phrase “after the riots” carries a lot of baggage, and this book unpacks it. The riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. produced, among other things, a before/after dichotomy with regard to neighborhoods, public policy, and perceptions about city life. This remarkable collection of essays examines the riots’ historical context and contemporary resonance from a variety of perspectives. My favorite piece, by Seattle University professor Emily Lieb, factors decades of ill-conceived highway planning into the equation. The correlation between infrastructure “improvements” and civil unrest might baffle some, but if you’re from Rosemont or Middle East, you get the connection. That type of analysis extends the conversation far beyond the events of April 1968 and makes this book an essential read.