In the day of social media, it’s hard to a book by one of my favorite authors to slip under my radar. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I wandered into my local library one day to find that not only had Laura Lippman published a new book but that it was reading and waiting for me on the new books shelf. And not only that but it was a chance to check in again with journalist turned private eye Tess Monaghan.
Years ago, Melisandre Harris Dawes left her daughter unattended in her car on a hot August afternoon. The child died but Melisandre was able to avoid jail time by pleading temporary insanity. After traveling the globe for years to get away from the stigma, Melisandre has returned home to Baltimore to tell her side of the story in a new, self-funded documentary. And she hopes to reconnect with the two daughters she left behind as part of the divorce agreement with her husband.
Tess’s uncle Tyner Grey has a past with Melisandre — they dated before he settled down with Tess’s Aunt Kitty. He’s also her lawyer and he brings Tess and her new partner in to provide security and investigative services for Melisandre. As Tess juggles her life as a p.i. with motherhood to her three-year-old daughter Carla Scout, the case quickly becomes more than just a nice paycheck for Tess. Melisandre is demanding, manipulative and difficult to work for and it appears she has a different agenda than just restoring her name to the Baltimore community and world.
Lippman deftly balances the questions about what happened that fateful day with a new mystery that slowly emerges in the present, all while giving us glimpses into Tess’ life with Carla Scout and Crow. Tess’s questions about how motherhood and how she may or may not compare to Melisandre are woven into the threads of the story with Lippman offerings sly commentary on just how far parents will go to protect their children — and how sometimes children can get caught in the crossfire of adults and their disagreements. As with many of her recent stories, Lippman isn’t just interested in solving the crimes that happen in her novel (though she does do that) but also looking at the impact these crimes have on the community and the people involved. One interesting thread is how these crimes have impacted the daughters that Melisandre left behind as well as looking at two new mothers who come into her orbit (Tess and the wife of Melisandre’s ex-husband).
It all adds up to yet another satisfying novel by Lippman. As I’ve said many times before, Lippman is an author whose books may be classified as mysteries but those books have the good habit of transcending genre lines. You don’t necessarily have to have read all of Tess’s exploits up until now to enjoy this one. If you’re looking to see why a lot of people rave about Lippman, you can’t go wrong with this one.