I love finding books by accident. I’ve actually written about it on here before.
The particular book that I stumbled onto this time, however, I found in a great little “take-a-book-leave-a-book-mail-it-back” library. All the books have return address stickers on the back! Finding stuff like that brings me great joy.
I kind of absentmindedly picked up a mystery novel, and much to my surprise, I plowed through it quite quickly (I’ve mentioned before, I am a shockingly slow reader). That mystery novel was the excellent Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman. I am a strong believer that finding books, movies, and music that are “better than they have to be” is one of the great joys in life. I struck pay dirt with this book.
It’s a mystery, and part of a series (And no, before you ask, it’s NOT a cozy this time. I love the cozy mystery – no shame! – but this is much more gritty). The thing about Lippman’s writing is that she knows how to not only tell a good story and move the plot along with good pacing, but she includes literary allusion in the right proportion, and her turns of phrase are interesting and eye-catching.
Tess Monaghan is a human character with shortcomings and flaws, but she’s also interesting and relatable. She has some real moments of self-discovery in this novel that one might not expect. Again, she’s “being better than she has to be.”
I think my favorite part of this book, however, has to be Lippman’s treatment of Baltimore. She writes like someone who truly loves a place, warts and all. She is wonderfully descriptive and engaging without glossing over the really seedy, rough bits. Lippman was born in Georgia, but was raised in Baltimore, and moved back to that city after attending University. She worked as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun for 12 years and looks at the city through a lens that only that kind of history with a place can allow. And, as a fantastic aside, Lippman and her husband (the amazing writer David Simon) were married on the roof of their building in a ceremony by John Waters. Yes, THE John Waters. I mean, how much more Bawlmer can ya get, hon?
A friend of mine once said that the old TV show The Streets of San Francisco was great because “the city was a character.” I think Lippman does the same with Baltimore in the Tess Monaghan books. Having read the first one, I’m eager to get into others. After all, besides keeping up with her budding career as a private investigator, I want to know how her relationship with Crow develops!
Eric (who is currently trying to balance hockey season with the rest of life, including playing dek hockey, and reading as much Tess Monaghan as he can find)