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Lady of the Lake Summary & Study Guide

Laura Lippman
This Study Guide consists of approximately 42 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Lady of the Lake.
This section contains 808 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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Lady of the Lake Summary & Study Guide Description

Lady of the Lake Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Lady of the Lake by Laura Lippman.

The following version of this book was used to create the guide: Lippman, Laura. Lady in the Lake. HarperCollins, 2019.

Laura Lippman's Lady in the Lake is written from a network of narrative vantages. In each of the novel's three larger parts, Lippman presents alternating first person and third person accounts. The first person passages are driven by the voices of more minor characters, while the third person sections follow Maddie Schwartz's consciousness and overarching experiences as she navigates the world outside her marital confines.

After years of marriage to her husband Milton, Maddie realizes she has given up her dreams to satisfy the traditional Jewish expectations of her family. She leaves her husband and young son to begin a life on her own. Desperate to be monetarily independent from Milton, she tries selling her engagement ring to a jeweler. When the man offers her significantly less than the ring is worth, Maddie stages a break-in at her apartment, swearing the ring has been stolen. She does not, however, expect to fall in love with the young suave African American cop who answers her cries for help. Shortly after they have sex, Ferdie helps Maddie secure an apartment in a safer neighborhood. He continues visiting her every night in secret, as their interracial relationship is illegal.

In the coming weeks, Maddie continues to struggle for footing. She begins meeting with the young woman, Judith, who worked at the jewelry store where she attempted to sell her ring. Both from Jewish families, the women agree to help their local synagogue search for the body of a missing girl, Tessie Fine. During the search, they break off from the others; Maddie spots Tessie's twisted frame thrown in the brush behind Cylburn Arboretum. Discovering Tessie's body throws Maddie unexpectedly into the world of journalism.

Aware of Maddie's involvement in Tessie's discovery, Ferdie later tells her who the cops' main suspect is. Maddie takes the information to the paper, begging popular columnist, Bob Bauer, to be involved in the writing of the story. Bauer does not allow Maddie's participation until she returns with letters from her correspondence with the convicted murderer, Stephen Corwin. After working on the piece with Bauer, Maddie fights for more stories. Though the men at the Star newspaper scoff at Maddie's efforts, she does not give up. After Maddie follows a query regarding a power outage, the police discover the body of a disappeared African American woman, Cleo Sherwood nearby.

Confused why no one is chasing Cleo's story, Maddie sets herself to the case. She interviews Cleo's family, her former coworker at the Flamingo cocktail bar, Tommy Ludlow, and a slew of other tangentially related characters. Through each these dangerous interactions, Maddie gradually begins to piece the story together.

Simultaneously, each of the first person narrator's reveal new truths regarding the mysterious case. Tommy Ludlow, another of the infamous Shell Gordon's employees, admits in his account that Gordon demanded he kill Cleo. While Maddie believes Cleo's controversial affair with the politician Ezekiel Taylor was what got her into trouble, Tommy reveals that Gordon was in love with Taylor; unable to see Taylor with another lover, Gordon decided to eliminate Cleo.

Eventually Tommy comes forward and confesses his involvement in the case, another tip Ferdie gives Maddie so she can get ahead at work. The case finally solved, Maddie feels lost, unsure where her work will take her next. Not long later, however, Ferdie tells her the cops discovered Stephen Corwin's mysterious accomplice in the murder of Tessie Fine was his mother, Angela Corwin. He makes Maddie promise she will do nothing with the information, as it would be easily traced back to him, and reveal their secret affair.

Maddie does not listen, and pays a visit to Angela the next day. When Maddie starts asking her a series of questions regarding the murder, Angela grows hysterical, admitting her involvement and stabbing Maddie in the stomach with a steak knife.

While Maddie is recovering in the hospital, she watches reports of Angela's arrest. Meanwhile a woman slinks into the room to change the trash and addresses Maddie by name. When Maddie demands to know who she is, the woman says she was once Cleo Sherwood. She explains that she and Tommy staged her death, using her roommate Latetia's body. Before Maddie can ask anymore questions, Cleo disappears.

For several weeks, Ferdie fails to visit Maddie. When he finally reappears, he tells her her use of the Angela Corwin tip cost him his job and chances at becoming a detective. Maddie apologizes and they make love for the last time.

Twenty years later, Maddie gives a speech a journalism conference, detailing her many successes and experiences in the industry. During her oration, she reflects on her early cases, realizing how much these experiences have shaped her identity.

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