Laura Lippman, Baltimore Blues

Posted October 31, 2011 by Kathy Davie in

Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan, #1)Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman
Series: Tess Monaghan, 1
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First in the Tess Monaghan suspense series set in Baltimore, Maryland and revolving around an unemployed journalist.

The Story
Futzing about with little odd jobs here and there isn’t putting much food on the table for Tess Monaghan, so when her best friend, Rock, asks her to do some spying on his fiancée, Ava Hill, for $30 an hour, Tess jumps on it. What she learns about Ava is enough to worry her and so she sets them both up for the big confrontation.

Which, naturally, does not go as planned. Especially when Rock is arrested for murder.

The Characters
Tess Monaghan is a 29-year-old Jewish-Catholic girl who lost her job as a journalist when the paper was bought out. She’s currently working a number of odd jobs including one at her Aunt Kitty Monaghan’s bookstore, Women and Children First. To de-stress, she rows a scull on the Patapsco River, runs, and lifts weights. Crow, a.k.a., Edgar Allan, is a musician who works part-time at Kitty’s bookstore and is passionate about Kitty. Jonathan Ross is an old boyfriend of Tess’ who just keeps on coming on. Whitney Talbott is another friend of Tess’ and a journalist as well.

Darryl Paxton, a.k.a., Rock, is a dedicated rower and Tess’ best friend—she will be the best man at his upcoming wedding. His job as a research scientist is simply so he can afford to row and compete. Ava Hill is Rock’s fiancée and is on her third go-round to pass the bar and currently works for Abramowitz at O’Neal, O’Connor and O’Neill (the Triple O). She’s also a grade-A bitch out for herself.

Michael Abramowitz is a big-name lawyer who started as a public defender, went out on his own, and then entered into partnership with the Triple O. Tyner Gray is Rock’s lawyer and a former rower who won the silver in rowing at the Olympics. VOMA and Cecilia Cesnik are victims who hold one of the keys to the truth. Frank Miles, the custodian at the Triple O, finds the body.

My Take
Tess drove me nuts. First, she gets Rock into all this trouble with her stupid bumbling about—as a journalist, why wouldn’t she have thought about taking a tape recorder with her at her first go-round with Ava Hill?? Then she allows her friend Whitney to goad her into taking all these other chances and not informing Rock’s lawyer about what she’s up to or what she has discovered. WTF??

Then there’s the oh-so-lovely Jonathan Ross. I can’t believe Tess puts up with his crap. Hasn’t she any morals? What an asshole!! Especially with the number he’s doing on Rock! Nor can I believe that the security guard and the custodian just let Tess and Crow toss the victim’s office. In the middle of the night.

I think Lippman is trying to set Tess up as a local girl who knows everyone through her once-prominent family, causing us to get all warm and fuzzy. Well, if the rest of the family makes decisions the way Tess does, it’s no surprise the family went bankrupt.

If I hadn’t already read Girl in the Green Raincoat, I’d probably cross Lippman off my reading list.

The Cover
The cover is rather indistinct other than the car, truck?? sitting a ways back with its headlights on. I’m assuming it’s the hit-and-run car, which means it must be dawn. It’s possible that the reddish-orange and black blur in the forefront is another car?? but I’m not sure. It is at least consistent with the story…a blur.

The title is almost perfect although I would have thought, considering how the thinking Tess puts into anything, that Monaghan Blues would have been more appropriate.

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