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Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1997

3.8 out of 5 stars 181 customer reviews
Book 1 of 12 in the Tess Monaghan Novel Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Downsized ex-reporter Tess Monaghan spends her days working part-time at the bookstore owned by sexy Aunt Kitty and trying not to fall into the disgustingly polluted Patapsco from her city-owned boat. When rowing buddy Rocky pays her what looks like a fortune to follow his fiance, the trail leads to murder with Rocky the prime suspect. "Uneven" is the word for this first novel-hometown and newspaper backgrounds are alive from page one, but characters are cartoons until chapter 15 (out of 30) when Tess investigates the victim. Suddenly the story perks up to a believable pageturner. If Lippman continues the promise of the second half of Baltimore Blues while adhering to advice attributed to Elmore Leonard to cut out the parts people won't read, mystery fans can anticipate an engrossing series.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Laura Lippman deserves to be a big star." -- -- Julie Smith, author of House of Blues

Product Details

  • Series: Tess Monaghan Mysteries (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (February 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380788756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380788750
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,727,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about "accidental PI" Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor's Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association. Ms. Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., Ms. Lippman attended Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her other newspaper jobs included the Waco Tribune-Herald and the San Antonio Light. Ms. Lippman returned to Baltimore in 1989 and has lived there since.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have to admit that I don't read very many American mystery/crime writers, and those I do tend to be overwhelmingly male (my two favorites are probably George Pelecanos and Elmore Leonard, just to give you a sense of my taste). And when I have sampled female-written series (Patricia Cornwell and Janet Evanovich are the two that spring to mind), they have utterly failed to connect with me. Nonetheless, Lippman's Tess Monaghan series came highly recommended to me, and the nearby Baltimore setting was a big draw.

This first in the series finds heroine Tess teetering on the brink of 30, and somewhat adrift following the closing down of the newspaper she worked at. She lives in a cheap apartment above her aunt's bookstore, and barely makes ends meet working as a clerk in the store and doing an odd job for an uncle. Her personal life is equally in flux, as she doesn't exactly have a slew of friends, and her love life is vacant, save for the random booty-call by her ex-boyfriend who cheats on his current girlfriend with Tess. The one constant in her life is a daily crack-of-dawn appointment with her racing shell and the Patapsco river.

This daily exercise has led to a friendship with another avid rower, Darryl Paxton. One day he hires her to check up on the activities of his type-A fiancee, and thus Tess embarks on her first session of amateur sleuthing. However, what starts as a fairly simple tailing job turns into a high profile murder case, as the fiancee's high-profile boss at a prestigious law firm has his head bashed in. Darryl is charged with the murder, and Tess is put to work by his defense lawyer as a gopher/investigator.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This novel introduces Ms Lippman's Regular series heroine ,ex journalist Tess Monaghan,who since her former newspaper closed down has found herself scratching a precarious existence working for her Aunt Kitty,a bookstore owner,and doing some supernumery work on behalf of her Uncle Donald,work that unknown to her is not really required and is paid for by her uncle from his own pocket. She is close friends with The Rock,with whom she shares a passion for rowing,he being nationally ranked and she an enthusiastic amateur.They train together and enjoy a relaxed cameraderie.
He is engaged to a young lawyer,Ava,and is afraid that she is seeing another man.He asks Tess to follow her and report on her movements.She accepts reluctantly,being unable to refuse the money on offer.She finds that the poised and unlikeable Ava is a shoplifter and is seeing Michael Abromowitz,once a prominent public defender now a partner in the firm which employs her.
Abromowitz is murdered and suspicion falls upon The Rock .His lawyer ,another rowing fanatic,named Tyner, engages Tess to dig around in the case trying to uncover facts useful to his defence.She finds that Ava has spun a yarn to the Rock about being forced to sleep with Abramowitz and thus the Rock has motive enough
Aide by her socialite friend Whitney she delves into the case uncovering information about the personalities involved.She finds herself mired in the worlds of teenage sexual abuse and murder,and industrial compensation cases both involving Abramowitz .Others have valid motives for wishing him dead.
The case is unravelled smoothly and in addition to Tess there are likeable characters in plenty--Crow ,a bookstore clerk and wannabe musician,smitten by Tess,and Whitney,flambouyant and opinionated but with personality to spare.
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2 Comments 33 of 38 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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By M.A. on December 22, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I finished Laura Lippman's Baltimore Blues last night, and I was pleased with the overall story and its characters. In brief, Tess Monaghan is a former reporter, struggling to find employment when her rowing friend asks her to check up on his fiancee. Tess reluctantly accepts because she needs the money and because she cares for her friend. Unfortunately, Tess suspects that the fiancee is having an affair with her boss, a disreputable lawyer with a reputation for defending the scum of humanity... at least, before he's murdered. The prime suspect is Tess's friend, and now she's out to uncover the real killer.
The story is pretty straightforward with a fairly likable cast of supporting players. What really makes this book successful, however, is not the story or the characters, but rather the setting -- Baltimore, which becomes a character in it of itself. Lippman, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun and long-time resident of Charm City, clearly knows her territory, making full use of various known landmarks as well as unknown neighborhoods and traditions. It's a richly layered guide to Baltimore that only touches on the wealth that the city offers.
Ultimately, what really nagged me, though, was my own proximity to Baltimore. When I read other mysteries and the author takes great care bringing location into the story, I'm often impressed with the detail and character of those settings. As a writer, part of me often speculates -- are these real places or did the author make them up? Now, having read Baltimore Blues and dabbling in local color, I must confess that it's rather strange to read about places I've been to, or could get to within a half hour's drive. When Lippman actually mentions my own county, including a town not far from where I live, I had to pause and remind myself that Baltimore Blue was just fiction.
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