I'd Know You Anywhere Essay - Critical Essays

Laura Lippman

Literary Criticism and Significance

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years (mainly with The Baltimore Sun), and she began writing fiction while she was still a reporter. Her early books were part of a series about an “accidental” private investigator, but Lippman transitioned from that style of writing with her first single novel, What the Dead Know. I’d Know You Anywhere is her second novel; it discusses the effects of crime on victims. Whereas I’d Know You Anywhere fits into the crime fiction genre, Lippman’s focus on the emotions and realistic struggles of victims makes the novel more than just another thriller. She creates multifaceted characters who have the ability to infuriate readers, elicit sympathy, or provoke reconsideration of what one views as normal.

The Author’s Note at the end of I’d Know You Anywhere states that the novel is loosely based on a true crime involving a serial killer who captured a young teen, held her captive while he killed others, and then released her as his only surviving victim. In Andrea Simakis’s review of the novel for Cleveland.com, she draws parallels between fictional Eliza Benedict and Walter Bowman and the real case of Charles Starkweather and fourteen-year-old Caril Ann Fugate. In 1958, Starkweather slaughtered Fugate’s parents and little sister and then held her hostage in the house for several days with her family’s dead bodies. Later he went on a killing spree, with Fugate in tow, and murdered eleven people in Nebraska and Wyoming. When the pair was caught, Fugate was viewed as an accomplice because she had numerous opportunities to escape (much like Eliza Benedict) but did not do so. The trial resulted in Fugate’s being sentenced to seventeen years in jail. Fugate is still alive, but she will not speak to anyone about the events of 1958. Lippman has been asked about the similarities between her characters and the Starkweather-Fugate case, but she will neither confirm nor deny that it is the true crime that inspired I’d Know You Anywhere.

Overall, I’d Know You Anywhere was released to positive reviews. Critics and readers appreciate Lippman’s ability to create memorable characters who drive the novel rather than the book’s thrilling plot. Patrick Anderson of The Washington Post echoes the sentiments of many critics in his August 16, 2010, review when he admiringly observes:

Lippman [begins] with a real crime and then uses the magic of her imagination to produce novels that are not only hypnotic reading but serious meditations on the sorrows and dangers of this world.