Tess Monaghan isn't sure what she what she's all about. She lost her newspaper job as the result of a merger and now supports herself by working for family members. She manages to get by because she lives in an apartment above her aunt's bookstore and has friends who take care of her.
The one thing Tess is sure about is that she loves to row and almost never misses an early morning practice with her good friend Darryl "Rock" Paxton. When Rock suspects that his fiance may be having an affair, he offers to pay Tess to do some informal private investigating.
Tess doesn't feel comfortable about trailing Ava, but for thirty bucks an hour, she thinks, "What the heck?" Her work sets off a chain of events that leads to a murder and the arrest of an innocent person. Thus Tess teams up with Tyner Gray, a rowing coach and attorney, to help clear his client's good name.
Baltimore Blues is the first in Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series. Tess may be confused about her life calling, but she is pretty sure about herself. She's smart, strong, and loyal. Although her independent and headstrong streaks take her down paths that others would avoid, she is not careless, only a bit naive; after all, the only kind of investigating she knows is that of a journalist.
One of the joys of Baltimore Blues is how deeply we are planted into the city of Baltimore. The neighborhoods, the waterfront, the history, the people--we are introduced to it all. East Coast readers will nod approvingly of Tess's food choices, brands and flavors that cry Mid-Atlantic Region. And one can only imagine the reaction of those familiar with the restaurants that Tess frequents, although her tastes run more to burgers and fries than to champagne and caviar.
But what about the murder mystery? Lippman presents enough red herrings to throw you off track but does not waste time distracting you needlessly. The characters and the clues were given throughout the novel; however, readers may not find it easy to put them all together much before Tess and Tyner do. In the end, the pieces combine to build a logical solution; Lippman did not have to rely on magic tricks to tie up the crime. Although the novel explores Tess's personal life, it is a bit grittier than a typical cozy.
I listened to the unabridged audio edition (by BBC Audiobooks America) read by Deborah Hazlett. Hazlett does a fine job presenting Tess as an intelligent, level-headed young woman. Her portrayal of the other characters got the job done without flourish, which fit the mood of Baltimore Blues quite well.
Laura Lippman has a website where you can learn more about her work and read a biography of Tess Monaghan.
Baltimore Blues at Amazon
Also available at Audible.com
These links lead to affiliate programs
Published by HarperCollins, 1997
Challenges: New Author, Audiobook, What's in a Name, Laura Lippman, 2010, 100+
Source: Bought (see review policy)