Title: Baltimore Blues
Author: Laura Lippman
Publisher: Avon, 1997
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, #1 Tess Monaghan mystery
Source: Paperback Swap
First Line: On the last night of August, Tess Monaghan went to the drugstore and bought a composition book-- one with a black-and-white marble cover.
After her paper, The Baltimore Star, folded, reporter Tess Monaghan endures jobless months by putting in hours of rowing on the river and by putting her faith in the comfort of routine. When her rowing buddy "Rock" Paxton wonders about the change in his fiancee and hires Tess to follow Ava, Tess needs the money so she agrees. Eva is having noontime trysts with another lawyer, Michael Abramowitz, and when Abramowitz turns up dead, all fingers point right to Tess's friend.
After reading and enjoying Lippman's standalone hits such as I'd Know You Anywhere and What the Dead Know, reading the first book in her Tess Monaghan series was only natural. After reading Baltimore Blues, I think Lippman could probably find her way around Baltimore blindfolded, and she wrote of the city in a way that made it interesting and intriguing-- and without an over-dependence on street names which can pull me right out of a story.
Tess is a multi-faceted character, and not all of the facets are likable. She's bright, she's talented, she's capable, but when she lost her job as a reporter, it seems to have knocked the wind-- and the desire-- right out of her. If she can't have what she wants, she's willing to settle for whatever happens.
She has a strong cast of characters around her who truly care for her, and they've been watching her, wondering when in the world she's going to snap out of her funk. To their credit-- and Lippman's-- when they reach the point of no return, they tell Tess a few home truths, but it's done with love. Characterization like that can be tricky, but Lippman does it perfectly.
Good plot, good pacing, good setting, good characters? I now know that, whatever Lippman writes, it's Good!