Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman

Released: 1997

Baltimore Blues is Laura Lippman's debut and first novel in the mystery series featuring heroine Tess Monaghan, a witty, wise-ass, intelligent, athletic (and pot-smoking!) reporter-turned-private eye you'll end up loving. In fact, Tess Monaghan is exactly why I'll be reading the rest of this series, which will soon be eleven books deep when The Girl in the Green Raincoat releases next year in 2011.

Tess' best friend Darryl "Rock" Paxton hires her to perform freelancing amateur detective work to follow around his girlfriend Ava, a stuck-up lawyer with an addictive shoplifting habit who has been acting strange and distant toward Rock. When Ava's boss and attorney Michael Abramowitz is found murdered, Rock is the prime suspect. With Tess caught in the middle, she devises numerous schemes to nab the true killer and clear her best friend's name.

Baltimore Blues is the perfect fit for mystery lovers who enjoy both the cozy and crime procedural sub-genres. The novel has a contemporary feel that will cater to and please both crowds. Tess has so much charisma and would have amazing screen-presence if she were a movie star. Rock's character is just as enjoyable as Tess in his own way, and I hope to see more of him in the future. It's easy to see why a very successful series has resulted from Baltimore Blues.

My only dislike about Baltimore Blues is the choppiness of the story. Sub-plots and side-stories are abundant and all over the place, which I will attribute to this being Lippman's first major novel. On the other hand, this is easy to dismiss because of how magnetic Tess is! I just cannot stress how much her character brings life to the novel.

There are many laugh-out-loud funny quotes and inner-monologue provided by Tess, which remind me of Stephanie Plum moments that Janet Evanovich has mastered. One of my favorite examples of inner-monologue by Tess is during a moment meeting with Ava at her apartment:

                      "Right. I strangled and beat a man about twice my size."
                       Ava laughed, a high-pitched girl's laugh learned in grade school and
                       sharpened by years of ridiculing others.

Just how hilarious and dead-on is that description?! It's one of many you will find throughout Baltimore Blues.

I've got the remainder of the Tess Monaghan series on my wish list. Baltimore Blues follows with Charm City (1997), Butchers Hill (1998), and In Big Trouble (1999).

  Charm City: A Tess Monaghan Novel Butchers Hill: A Tess Monaghan Novel In Big Trouble: A Tess Monaghan Novel

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