Book review: What the Dead Know


I’m an avid reader and am currently reading three books but the one that is really capturing my attention is “What the Dead Know” by Laura Lippman.

I love the true crime genre, but I think I’ve read all the good ones. My absolute favorite author Ann Rule, a former Seattle policewoman who worked alongside Ted Bundy at a suicide crisis hotline in the early 1970s. I met Ann Rule at a book signing in Atlanta several years ago, and a picture of the two of us sits behind my desk in my office at The Sealy News. She penned more than 35 true crime novels, which is no simple feat. Because it’s non-fiction, it involves sitting in a courtroom for weeks or even months, interviewing family members – of both victim and suspect – and digesting thousands of pages of transcripts and law enforcement documents. That might be the coolest job ever.

But I’ve read all of the books written by Ann Rule, who passed away in 2015. And while I’ll admit to being lured into the sensational cases of Casey Anthony, Laci Peterson and the Menendez brothers, once you know the story, you really don’t need to read a novel detailing the minutiae of someone’s childhood. I’ve read “Helter Skelter” and “The Stranger Beside Me” and everything John Douglas ever wrote. I’ve watched every episode of “Making a Murderer” twice. I’ve read books on cults, teenage vampires and black widows. I’ve exhausted the true crime genre.

So on my recent trips to Half-Price Books, the greatest place on earth, I’ve transitioned toward suspense fiction, which brings me to “What the Dead Know” by Laura Lippman.

Lippman is a former newspaper reporter so she writes the way I like to read: not too descriptive or fluffy, just tell the story and get to the point.

“What the Dead Know” starts off with a woman who’s been in a vehicle accident. She flees the scene and is taken to the hospital, where she reveals that she’s one of the infamous “Bethany sisters.”

Thirty years prior Heather and Sunny Bethany disappeared from a local mall and the case remained unsolved; their bodies were never recovered. However, the woman in the hospital claiming to be Heather Bethany has no proof that she is who she says she is. Once she escaped her captor, she claims she created a new identity and started a new life. She also refuses to go to a shelter or jail, claiming her captor all those years ago was a cop.

There’s some hints that perhaps this “Heather” person is lying. The driver license found in her purse is registered to Penelope Jackson, as is the car she was driving. She’s squirrely about offering details, claiming she doesn’t trust the police and doesn’t want to deal with a media circus.

It’s a quick and easy read, and I find myself stealing a few minutes of downtime to read a few pages. I’m about halfway through right now, but having read Lippman’s previous work, I’d definitely recommend it. I’ll post more info once I’m finished.

Also on my bookshelf: I’m listening to “The Couple Next Door” by Shari Lapena on Audible. I’m on chapter 24 of 37, and honestly, it’s not very good so far. I’ll keep you posted and let you know if it gets any better.

I also read a few pages every day in the book “Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God” by Timothy J. Keller. It’s great and inspiring, but not really the paperback you want to have in your bag while waiting to get your oil changed. It requires focused attention, so I just include a page or two in my daily morning devotional.

What’s on your bookshelf? Share your recommendations by emailing


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