Book Review: Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman

Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Surprisingly, I don't think I've read any of Laura Lippman's popular Tess Monaghan series before. I don't know why not, other than that there are so many books and so little time. I believe I downloaded this to my Nook when it was offered as a free book. Since there are so many free books offered, I have lots of them waiting to be read. I also have a bunch of samples which sounded interesting, but not quite interesting enough to push the Buy button.

But I digress.

When the story opens, Tess is drifting through life, surviving off the generosity of relatives after having been laid off from her job as a reporter for a Baltimore newspaper. She works a couple of part-time jobs, but hasn't thought about another full-time career, much less looked for one. The closest she has to a passion is her physical activity, rowing in the morning and running in the evening.

When her rowing partner, Rock Paxton, is arrested for the murder of a prominent attorney who was having an affair with Rock's fiance, Tess starts poking her nose into things. Her investigative skills as a reporter are well-suited for a sleuth and Rock's attorney, rather than having her go off the reservation and jeopardize the case, hires her as much to keep an eye on her activities as to use her help.

Needless to say, Tess doesn't follow the rules she's agreed to. She continues to investigate on her own, often dragging along one of her friends.

There are a couple of times later in the book where Laura Lippman stretches reality close to the breaking point. Without giving away any of the story, there's one point where Tess needs to do something that I know could take weeks or months to set up. This would have brought the story to a dead halt, losing all momentum, and I wondered how she was going to get around this fact. Her solution seemed too convenient to be believable to me, although the casual reader might not notice it.

Since Ms. Lippman has won every major award in the mystery field and is a perennial New York Times bestseller, I was surprised that this was so obviously a first novel. That's not saying it was bad. I would give it a solid three stars, maybe four if I was feeling generous that day. While enjoyable, it's not outstanding. I'd like to try one of her more recent books, maybe one of her standalones or possibly the most recent Tess Monaghan, to see how she's grown as a writer.

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