By a Spider’s Thread

Lippman, Laura. By a Spider’s Thread. Read by Barbara Rosenblat. New York: Recorded Books, 2004

Private detective Tess Monaghan is back. To bring you up to speed, this time she is a gun-toting, more experienced mystery solver. She has an online network of lady private investigators to help her solve cases, too. Tess still rows (although not as much as in the beginning), her aunt is finally settling down and getting married (Tess is maid of honor), but Tess and her cool boyfriend, Crow, are taking a break (sadly) after finding out they have differing opinions about marriage. In By a Spider’s Thread this time Tess has been contacted by a rich Jewish furrier, desperate to find his missing wife and children. What Tess and her new client, Mark Rubin, don’t know is that wife Natalie willingly took their three children and ran away, joining her criminal lover on the run. This time Lippman gives the reader both sides of the story – Mark’s desperate search and Natalie’s ever-increasingly criminal escape (and boy, does it get criminal). The bigger mystery is why Natalie would want to run away from a man who has given her everything she has ever wanted. As a successful furrier, Mark Rubin has always kept his wife in the lap of luxury. True to Lippman form, as always, things are not as they seem.

Reason read: This finishes the series I started in September in honor of a Baltimore Book festival.

Author fact: Laura Lippman has a FaceBook page and I “liked” it.

Book trivia: This is the last Tess mystery I will read even though there are more in the series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 171).

In a Strange City

Lippman, Laura. In a Strange City. Read by Barbara Rosenblat. New York: Recorded Books, 2009.

Here’s what is nice about In a Strange City: if you have skipped other books in the Tess Monaghan series, you can get caught up pretty quickly without repetitiveness in this book. When I last left Miss Monaghan in Butchers Hill, her best friend was in Japan, she was kind of seeing Crow, her aunt was jumping from man to man searching for the right relationship and Tess was in business with someone else. Now, Whitney is back from Tokyo, Crow and Tess practically live together (Tess is out of her Aunt’s place and in a real house now), her aunt is now dating Tyner and Tess has her own private investigation business (and she still has her greyhound. Yay!). Because Lippman is so smooth at bringing the reader up to speed, I feel like I just stepped out of the room for a minute. My only question – there was no mention of Tess rowing or working out at all. Did the fitness buff drop all that completely?

As a private detective, Tess Monaghan is back and this time she has taken on a case quite by accident. A man claiming to have been scammed in an antiques deal wants Tess to take his case. Although Tess refuses, Crow convinces her to check out the man’s claims. Through this interaction, Tess ends up witnessing a murder, finding out the would-be client doesn’t exist, and then she starts receiving strange gifts and messages at work and then at home. Somehow, she knows, the all of this is connected. She knows someone wants her on the case. She couldn’t stay out of it if she tried. Out of sheer curiosity she starts working the case…without a real client to speak of. It all hinges on the mysteriously “Poe Toaster”, a unknown man who symbolically has a drink with the ghost of famed author, Edgar Allan Poe, every January 19th.

Confession: I really liked the prologue, from the killer’s point of view. The descriptive writing was magical.

Reason read: to continue the series started with Baltimore Blues in September to honor Baltimore’s Book Festival.

Author fact: I am surprised Lippman hasn’t been voted Baltimore’s best voice. She crams more facts about Charm City into her books than anyone else I have ever read.

Reader fact: Narrator Barbara Rosenblat was deemed the “golden voice of the 20th century” by AudioFile magazine.

Book trivia: In a Strange City made the New York Times “most notable” list.

Audio trivia: So, I was checking out the info on the audio case and was very surprised to read, “In a Strange City is Lippman’s second Monaghan mystery.” My first thought was, “Oh crap! I’m reading this series out of order…again!” Leave it to me to blame myself first and foremost. I went to Lippman’s site and clicked on the Tess Monaghan tab and read In a Strange City is actually number six on the list. Number two is Charm City, which I skipped, thanks to Pearl. I’m going to trust the author is correct and say, with confidence, I am reading the Monaghan series in order. Lippman, of all people, should know the order of her series. Right?

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Baltimore” (p). Simple and to the point.

Butchers Hill

Lippman, Laura. Butchers Hill. New York: Avon, 1998.

Tess Monaghan is back. This time she has her own “business” as a private investigator. It’s a bit hokey, but the business actually belongs to someone else and she does the “detecting” for a cut. Since it is a brand new venture for her, she is thrilled when she gets two cases on the same day – cases she considers “slam dunks”, especially since she has other people helping her with the leg work. Client #1 is Luther Beale of Butcher Hill. Six years earlier he went to prison for killing a kid vandalizing cars in his neighborhood. Now, newly released from prison Beale wants to make amends with the children who witnessed the death of their friend, even though he has always claimed self defense. Beale needs Tess to not only find these kids, but identify them first since they were anonymous minors at the time. Her second client is a woman with several different aliases. Although shrouded in mystery, Tess can tell she is a well-to-do black woman. This woman claims she looking for the daughter she put up for adoption thirteen years before. Of course, both cases turn out to be more complicated than they first appeared. The end of the story delivers a curve ball that somehow doesn’t smack of shock that it should. Instead, the surprise misses the mark and fails to make an impact.

Letdown: I was surprised Tess didn’t know what a “mule” was. Reason read: to continue the series started with Baltimore Blues…but not really. See BookLust Twist below for what I mean. I could also say that I am reading Butchers Hill because November is National Adoption Month.

Author fact: Lippman won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original for Butchers Hill.

Book trivia: Butcher’s Hill is third in the Tess Monaghan series. I skipped book #2, Charm City.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 171). Funny thing is, Pearl doesn’t mention specific titles except #3 and #8. The first book in the series, Baltimore Blues is mentioned in Book Lust To Go in the chapter “Baltimore.”

As an aside, what would have been really cool is instead of listing the same book in several different chapters (like To Kill a Mockingbird) list out all the books within a series. Less repetition, more information.

Another note: I had been calling this book Butcher’s Hill as opposed to Butchers Hill. Big difference.


Baltimore Blues

Lippman, Laura. Baltimore Blues. Read by Deborah Hazlett. North Kingston, RI: BBC Audiobooks America, 1997.

Tess Monaghan is an out of work reporter trying to make ends meet with little odd jobs. The only stable consistencies in her life are rowing and her friendship with fellow rower, “the Rock.” She manages to stay out of trouble until Rock “hires” her to do some private investigating of his near perfect fiancee. She has been acting so weird as of late so Rock wants to know why. Tess’s tactics to tease out the truth are less than desirable, so when she uncovers an affair and the other man, who happens to be the fiancee’s boss, winds up dead,  all fingers are pointed at Rock. Of course they do. Now Tess has even more incentive to uncover the truth. Along the way Tess uncovers a whole slew of shady dealings involving a rape support group, unpaid settlements for victims of asbestos related ailments, and a sexual predator of children on death row. What makes Baltimore Blues a likeable story is a combination of things. Tess is far from perfect as a private investigator. Her antics are downright funny. The city of Baltimore is like another character in the book. Places around Baltimore play a significant role in the plot which is a treat for readers who really know the area.

My only irritant? Tess doesn’t know the difference between an attempt on her life and a hit and run. Even though her friend Jonathan is killed in the process, it is deemed an accident and dismissed. Tess isn’t the least bit suspicious until there is a second attempt to kill her.

Reason read: Baltimore, Maryland has a book festival in September. What better way to celebrate than a book called Baltimore Blues?

Author fact: Laura Lippman lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Big surprise, right?

Book Audio trivia: This is one of the few audio books I have listened to where the narrator is American and doesn’t have some sort of accent. Although her Baltimore accent is funny.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Baltimore” (p 35).