Book Review ‘Baltimore Blues’ by Laura Lippman

Tess Monoghan is ritualistic, quirky, and unrefined, not quite as brash as Janet Evonovich’s, Stephanie Plum, but, a strong no fuss female who finds comfort in searching out the negative in everything and everyone. In Tess’s world, all this, combines with her clever, observant qualities, and equals an entertaining character.

Starting at the beginning always appeals to me; reissued in January, 2015, Baltimore Blues is the first installment in the Tess Monoghan series, which is gaining interest with the recent explosion of excitement and popularity in the female crime-fiction segment, written by women.

When The Star in Baltimore shuts-down its presses, Tess is an unemployed reporter. In this literary episode, two years later, Tess has exhausted her unemployment benefits and survives working part-time at her eccentric aunt’s bookstore and through hand-outs from her friend Rock and an uncle.

 Without a great deal of motivation, Tess appears to be in a hopeless cycle. At least, until her rowing friend Rock offers her some generous cash to tail his suspicious behaving fiancé that just so happens to be an attorney. So when Tess the unremarkable becomes Tess the sleuth, things start happening.

Eventually, she discovers Ava, Rock’s fiancée, is a kleptomaniac, shopping lifting for the thrill and sleeping with a sleazy attorney at the firm where she works. Even so, the situation escalates and suddenly, when the sleazy attorney ends-up dead, Tess is in the middle of a situation far darker than she imagined especially when Rock becomes the chief murder suspect and finds himself in jail. Now, she’s employed by Rock’s attorney to track down the real killer.

An ex-journalist, Laura Lippeman’s advantageous inside knowledge expands Tess’s character in ways that would otherwise be impossible. In this somewhat unusual novel that is an enjoyable step-away from stories daunted by psychiatric nightmarish women, Tess’s flaws are clearly her most endearing qualities.

Despite several annoying issues where the author overstates the obvious, Baltimore Blues is a fine read and a good beginning to a series that we can see has staying power.      

Review by Sammy Sutton


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