In Laura Lippman’s short story collection, we experience a variety of voices: first person narratives; stories from the perspective of women ranging from teens to aged; two from men who have been less than faithful to their wives (spousal betrayal seems to be a recurring theme); and a couple from the perspective of black men.
Another recurring theme lies in the numerous stories set in Baltimore or neighboring cities, like Washington, D.C. There are a few Tess Monaghan stories, and one of my favorites was the one entitled “The Accidental Detective,” in which Tess is undergoing an interview about her life. I discovered enough about Tess in this one to convince me that I really needed to read the whole series about her.
Most of the stories share a dark theme, with murder being the order of the day.
In the title story, “Hardly Knew Her,” we meet a young girl who figures out an unusual way to stop her father from gambling away all of her possessions.
In the last story, which is almost a novella entitled “Scratch a Woman,” we meet again a character from an earlier story: a high-level prostitute/madam, in which we thoroughly delve into this character’s backstory, and even meet her own sister, who also has a dark side.
Short story collections can sometimes be tedious, or many of the stories don’t hold up to the high level of one or two of them. But with Hardly Knew Her: Stories, I found that the characterizations were as rich as those in a novel, and the plots kept me turning pages, wondering what I would discover next. Therefore, five stars for this one.