I reached out on Twitter to ask my followers what they were reading and one answered back ” Baltimore Blues.” I was immediately intrigued! A book set in my home town? That never happens! Oh wait, crime novel? That makes more sense… Most people know Baltimore from Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. Hopefully by now you also know the 2013 Superbowl Champion Ravens! And then there are a handful of famous folk who have hailed from these streets; John Waters, Barry Levinson, Tom Clancy, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Julie Bowen, Sysqo, Michael Phelps, Cal Ripken, Babe Ruth, and 2Pac. You can see the Baltimore landscape highlighted in movies like Ladder 49, He’s Just Not That Into You, Cry-Baby, and Netflix series House Of Cards. Baltimore is the birthday place of The Star Spangled Banner, and we sing with an extra O! in the last line; which began as a nod to our Orioles, but now just let’s you know that Baltimore is represented! And how ’bout dem O’s, hon?
Book # 13- Baltimore Blues, Laura Lippman
Synopsis: After losing her job to the fall of print media, Tess Monaghan is hard up for cash and a little bored. She is early to rise every day to stick to her training as a rower in the Baltimore harbor, until she is approached by a friend to do some investigating. Rock wants Tess to follow his fiance and find out what she’s really up to. Tess follows her bizarre behavior to a hotel where she enters a room with her boss; an attorney known for defending the worst of Baltimore’s criminals. Tess reports back to Rock who snaps and tracks down the lawyer at his office and roughs him up. Except that when he is found he has been murdered and Rock is the number-one suspect. Tess is certain of his innocence and to prove it, she links up with Rock’s defense to investigate. As it turns out, too many people had motive for this murder, and someone wants Tess to stop poking around!
My Impressions: Well who doesn’t like to read about places they know like the back of their hand? I live in this neighborhood, eat at these restaurants and shop in this mall! I know the swampy smell that oozes from the harbor when it’s hazy, hot and humid in summer. But my first hand knowledge aside, I think this author did a great job describing it all. She tells a really detailed story here, bringing in perspectives from law enforcement, the prison system, local news media, and government offices. Like and episode of CSI or Murder, She Wrote, there is a great depth to the story with lots of layers to uncover.
At first, I found it hard to connect with the main character and keep all of the details straight. I found myself wondering what was really driving her behavior. But as I read on, I realized that she was just a little lost in herself, and began to rediscover who she was as she pressed on in her investigation. Still there were many plot points keep in mind. This helped keep the suspense going but also caused me to get a little lost a few times. In the end I think the story wraps up quite nicely with an unexpected outcome.
Why you should read it: As I said in Murder He Wrote ( http://wp.me/p3WfxY-13 ), I’m a fan of these murder mysteries. Full of suspense and intrigue, romantic twists and insight into the pure corruption of ‘the system’. This one had the added benefit, for me, of being set in Baltimore (hence the Counting Crows lyric in the title; Adam Duritz is Baltimore-born). This book could easily be an episode of a TV crime drama, a female counter to Alex Cross and Jack Ryan, or even based on a true story. This is the first of a series featuring Tess and while I won’t be reading them marathon style, I’ll definitely be checking out Charm City and Butcher’s Hill in the future.
Book #13 in the bag!
“Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.” ― P.J. O’Rourke