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Libby Malin Sternberg was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland and is still in love with the city of crabcakes, steamy summers, and ethnic neighborhoods. (What’s not to love about a city that names its football team after an Edgar Allan Poe character?)
Libby earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music and also attended the summer American School of Music in Fontainebleau, France.
After graduating from Peabody, she worked as a Spanish gypsy, a Russian courtier, a Middle-Eastern slave, a Japanese Geisha, a Chinese peasant, and a French courtesan--that is, she sang as a union chorister in both Baltimore and Washington Operas, where she regularly had the thrill of walking through the stage doors of the Kennedy Center Opera House before being costumed and wigged for performance. She also sang with small opera and choral companies in the region.
Alas, singing didn’t pay all the bills so she turned to writing, working in a public relations office and then as a freelancer for various trade organizations and small newspapers.
During a period of self-unemployment, she took her sister’s advice and decided to pursue an unfulfilled dream--writing fiction. Her first young adult novel, Uncovering Sadie’s Secrets, was a nominee for the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe award from Mystery Writers of America. The second in that mystery series was released in hardcover in November 2004. A third mystery in the series was released in 2008. She's also written a historical YA mystery, The Case Against My Brother. She is the author of two women's fiction books (writing as Libby Malin)--Loves Me, Loves Me Not and Fire Me!--and is under contract for a third. All of her books have received critical acclaim.
For many years, she and her family lived in Vermont, where she worked as an education reform advocate, contributed occasional commentaries to Vermont Public Radio and was a member of the Vermont Commission on Women.
She is married, with three children, and now resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
on Feb. 21, 2011 :
A police procedural elevated way beyond the norm of its genre by its setting, Lost to the World takes place in the laboratories of polio researchers at Johns Hopkins University in 1954.
Julia Dell, a secretary in the labs who discovers the body of one of her boss’s colleagues, is herself a polio survivor – “a polio” in the crude parlance of the day. She’s engaged to be married, but not very excitedly so, and lives with her over-protective parents. Her supreme sense of urgency about the work being done at Johns Hopkins, and elsewhere by scientists like Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, has nothing to do with hope for a better life for herself. She knows her ruined leg will never be repaired, but she aches for the still-healthy children who will contract the disease if a vaccine isn’t found soon.
Detective Sean Reilly is determined to solve the scientist’s murder, but he’s distracted by single-fatherhood. His wife died of cancer a year ago, leaving him with two young sons and a babysitter not pleased to be whipsawed by a detective’s irregular working hours. He’s lonely, somewhat scared and, like Julia, beaten down by life’s circumstances.
And then there is the corpse, Dr. Myron Lowenstein – or is it Dr. Lowenstein? What could be easier than to identify a scientist murdered in his own lab at a prominent research institution like Hopkins? In this novel, even the dead guy has a back story.
Sternberg’s universe is populated by old-school Irish and Italian Catholics and Jewish intellectuals, and her story combines elements of anti-Semitism, The Glass Menagerie, gold-digging single women coming of age in post-World War II America and ambitious scientists competing to find the discovery of a lifetime. Baby Boomers who were children in the ‘50s will relate to the prominence of polio in adult conversations of the time and will recall receiving one or both of the new polio vaccines.
Though the identify of the murderer is kept well under wraps until very near the end of the novel, the reader may think he/she knows where the personal story is heading. But there are twists there, too.
This is the second Sean Reilly novel published by Sternberg’s tiny family publishing business, Istoria Books, and the third is in the works. If the others are as well-researched and as finely drawn as this one, she’ll have a franchise that reasonably can be mentioned in the same sentence with Scott Turow’s.
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(reviewed long after purchase)