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By a Spider's Thread: A Tess Monaghan Novel Mass Market Paperback – May 29, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tess Monaghan is back. After last year’s haunting standalone novel Every Secret Thing, Lippman returns with her eighth installment in an award-winning crime series. This time out the determined reporter-turned-private detective agrees to help a handsome but off-puttingly rigid Orthodox Jewish furrier Mark Ruben find his missing wife and children. Monaghan was recommended to the uptight furrier by her Jewish uncle, who spent years working with Ruben in a volunteer program that instructed Jewish prisoners in Jewish rituals and traditions. Ruben makes Monaghan feel as if she knows nothing about being Jewish, even though her mother’s family is Jewish. He also makes her feel as if she knows nothing about commitment. About the only thing that makes her like Ruben is the cash he’s willing to pay her up front. As weeks go by, Monaghan uncovers a tangle of lies and dark plans that reveal that Ruben’s gorgeous young Russian Jewish bride is anything but innocent. Yet much to Monaghan’s amazement, nothing seems to dim Ruben’s faith in his own tradition or to rock his sense of his role and responsibilities as a husband and a father. Lippman delivers a smart, fast-paced, nuanced story that features a well-drawn supporting cast, including the endearing if dangerous city of Baltimore itself. Lippman’s bad guys never become as interesting as her good guys, but there are some captivating touches here, including a criminal who studies the plots of crime novels in prison. Lippmann’s many fans will be thrilled.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Laura Lippman in her series featuring Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan just keeps getting better and better.” (Houston Chronicle)

“By a Spider’s Thread—arguably the most complex, moving novel in her Tess Monaghan detective series.” (Time Out New York)

“The fast-paced, intelligent story involves a maze of betrayal, surprises and a murder.” (Jewish Week)

“Both entertaining and unexpectedly touching. More Please.” (Baltimore Sun)

“Tess is feisty . . . And it is a joy to watch her come alive.” (Washington Times)

“A sense of place so unerring that it makes Baltimore everyone’s hometown.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Again, Yes! To Tess.” (Baltimore Sun)

“Compulsively readable” may be a cliché, but it’s a perfect description for this novel. (Toronto Globe and Mail)

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Product Details

  • Series: Tess Monaghan Novel (Book 8)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; Reissue edition (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062070916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062070913
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #323,643 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A. J Thompson on July 23, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Tess Monaghan doesn't like to take on the missing wife/missing husband cases. If they've left, apparently under their own steam, there must be a good reason, right? And why would you hand them over to the client, the person they were probably running away from? It doesn't occur to Mark Rubin that there was something wrong in his relationship with his young wife Natalie. He's a charming man, rich and successful to boot, but it doesn't sit easy with Tess when she takes on the case. Mark is not being entirely honest about what he knows about his wife's history. But is this out of shame, sheer ignorance, or for some more practical and sinister reason?

Young Isaac Rubin isn't sold on why he has to go on the run with his mother and the twins, his younger brother and sister. There must be a way of getting back to his father without his mother or her creepy new friend knowing. Not knowing that his father has hired a private investigator to find him, Isaac hatches his own plans about how to make contact with the parent who has always understood him most. Tess has to deal with the both the rigid faith of Mark Rubin and his blind stubbornness. For a young Russian girl to give up all of her freedom to become a Jewish wife there had to be a lot of love or a lot of hopeless submission involved. As she digs into the past of the mysterious Natalie Tess is sure her disappearance was so much more than the impulsive flight of a repressed housewife.

"By A Spider's Thread" is the eighth novel in the Tess Monaghan series. Lippman's heroine has a pragmatic and single minded approach to her work; classically gumshoe in approach as she doggedly pursues each and every lead in finding the four missing members of the Rubin family.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Doris Ann Norris on July 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Laura Lippman has been a favorite of mine since I read BALTIMORE BLUES and as few other writers have done, she gets better with each book. I was blown away by EVERY SECRET THING and am amazed that I felt that the latest in her Tess Monaghan series could only be described as "brilliant." Her changing POVs and the layer that unfold about the missing wife and children keep one reading with rapt attention.
Am not sure where "mctmjc" got her completely wrong information about BY A SPIDER'S THREAD being only the second book Lippman wrote by herself. But it is completely erroneous. But then many reviews..especially those that originate from online sites are.
It seems to me that "mctmjc" is not really a mystery fan, at least according to the list of books she has reviewed.
I am and KNOW Lippman has written all nine of her books by herself....unless, of course, you count her "muse."
Great characterization, great plotting and edge-of-your-seat suspense...what more can anyone ask?
Even if you have never read another Tess book, you should find this a compelling and most satisfactory book...and well worth the money. I again repeat the word, "brilliant."
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Fred Camfield on April 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Tess is hired by a well-to-do Jewish furrier to find his runaway wife. The problem is that he will not give Tess all the information she needs on family matters, and even lies about some details. She must work her way through a mire of relationships and friendships to determine how to find the woman and her children.

Tess is helped by networking with other women PIs on the Internet, transmitting digital photos and other infomation. She is also helped by an insider, i.e., one of the children is trying to contact his father.

Everyone has guns and there is some collateral damage. The story is a page turner that will keep you up late to get to the end. My main complaint is that some people just seemed to walk away and fade into the sunset. There were major crimes committed, and some accessories just seem to go on their way.

Along the way, you might learn more than you want to about Jewish holidays and customs. You will also pick up a few pointers on working the system. I might add that Tess is growing apart from Crow in this novel, so we will have to wait for the next novel to see what develops.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Larry VINE VOICE on March 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Baltimore PI, Tess Monaghan, is hired by Mark Rubin to find his family. Mark, a furrier, is a ruthless businessman, controlling husband, but, loving father. He remains true to his orthodox Jewish roots. He comes home one day to dicover that his wife and three children have disappeared. He wants them back and hires Tess to find them. Unbeknownst to him, Natalie, his wife, has run off with Zeke, an ex-con infatuated with her Hollywood looks. He was not counting on her bringing along her three kids. Now they must run away robbing banks to keep on living and moving. Tess taps into an internet resource called Snoop Sisters, a group of female PIs, to track them down. Things are never easy and for Zeke to be truly free, murder may be necessary.

In my view, Laura Lippman is a much better writer today than when she was writing the early Tess paperbacks. Her writing is much more focused on plot progression with really no effect on superb characterizations. For example, there is no party scene where we get to meet a dozen new characters at once. There are a couple of irksome dining scenes but they are few and far between all with a purpose of plot progression-- an aunt's wedding not withstanding. Written in alternate point of view chapters between Tess's investigation and Natalie's story serves to keep the plot moving along at a remarkably rapid pace. In fact, this is not just a PI novel but can also be considered a thriller. I will admit that after this book I like Tess. She is both clever and feisty. This is easily the best Tess book written and one of the best series books I have read in years. It is well balanced and as such the voice of Tess comes through loud and clear. To me, the most eagerly anticipated book of 2005 is the next stand alone by Laura Lippman. If it is as good as the last two I would strongly agree with those that consider Laura Lippman's books as the best that crime fiction has to offer. This is my pick for the Edgar award as Best Novel.
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