26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss this book
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...
Published on July 1, 2004 by Doris Ann Norris
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sure and steady.
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...
Published on July 23, 2005 by A. J Thompson
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sure and steady.,
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. The multi perspective is a boon to the narrative, as Lippman does a good job with the differences in adult and child viewpoints. The major plot twist is difficult to accept, but once past the revelation of this point it becomes more evident that a very human tragedy will have to occur. It lends somewhat of a dismal air to the second half of the novel even though the reader is increasingly caught up with concern in the outcome. The working relationship between Tess and her client becomes more intricate and real as time passes, and bless Monaghan for not taking that down the obvious road.
A solid crime read in a very successful series, easy to read and methodical in its approach though lacking in any real cliffhangers or breath taking suspense.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss this book,
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."
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Tess Monaghan case,
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.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My pick for the Edgar Award Best Novel,
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing until the politics,
This is the first Laura Lippman novel that I have read and for the most part enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the Baltimore feel and the main character Tess Monaghan. I was engaged by the story line and I thought the pacing was OK.
In fact the book was such a good read that I was able to gloss over the Snoop Sister Instant Messaging/Chat Room as an almost a too convenient dispenser of assistance and clues.
However, towards the end of the book, Lippman uses the main character to wax political on the state of social services, the insensitivity of the administration, and the soullessness of anyone who does not support a nanny state. I found this tedious and distracting -- though I realize other readers may find it worth cheering about. I prefer to keep my crime mysteries free of preaching.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Living in a dream world.,
"By a Spider's Thread," Laura Lippman's latest thriller, is about an Orthodox Jewish man whose wife and three children have disappeared. Mark Rubin is a wealthy Baltimore furrier who has been married for ten years to Natalie, a strikingly beautiful woman twelve years his junior. Without warning, Natalie suddenly leaves with the children, a nine-year-old boy and five-year-old twins. A frantic Mark Rubin hires private investigator Tess Monaghan to find his family.
Tess starts his investigation with a visit to Natalie's mother, Vera, a coarse individual who is so unfeeling that she offers to sell Tess information rather than provide it free of charge. As Tess digs deeper into the case, she discovers that both Mark and Natalie have shameful secrets that they have gone to great pains to conceal. These secrets hold the key to Natalie's otherwise inexplicable behavior.
Laura Lippman is a talented writer, and Tess Monaghan is a delightful protagonist. She is witty, self-effacing, tough, smart, and persistent. The bantering between the religious Jew, Mark Rubin, and the half-Jewish Tess, is stimulating and entertaining. Mark has his own ideas about religion and marriage, and Tess challenges him at every turn. She believes that Rubin is living in a dream world, persisting stubbornly in his belief that Natalie loves him. A subplot about the marriage of Tess's Aunt Kitty to Tyner Gray provides some welcome comic relief. Kitty also prods Tess to reevaluate her shaky relationship with her absent boyfriend, Crow.
"By a Spider's Thread" is an engrossing and fast-paced mystery with an intricate and involving plot that moves along at a quick pace. One weakness in the book, however, is Natalie. She is supposed to be a tough cookie who has been around the block a few times, but her behavior while she is on the run is too gullible and foolish to be believed. The ending has a couple of incongruities as well, especially when Tess has her back to the wall and doesn't use her head in a crucial situation. However, there are enough strengths in this book to recommend it, and I especially admire Lippman's exploration of the ways that secrets, lies, and self-delusion wreak havoc with people's lives.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning!,
Laura Lippman's eighth Tess Monaghan novel, "By A Spider's Thread" is a provocative, savvy, challenging thriller.
Precise plotting, an economical cast of realistic characters (some appealing, some detestable) and a plausible resolution make the pages disappear in a trice.
Mark Rubin, a wealthy Jewish furrier whose wife (Natalie) and three children have vanished, hires Tess to locate them.
Mark and Tess get off to a rocky beginning as Mark withholds information about his family and omits details about contacts that could illuminate Tess's search.
Tess is resourceful and they gradually warm to one another. As Tess learns more about Mark's family, marriage and religious identity, the reasons for Natalie's disappearance start to materialize.
Family secrets underlie the plot and provide the motive for the mastermind behind the disappearance.
The story is told from multiple points of view...that of Tess and the parallel view from the observant and bright eldest child.
This works and leaves enough blanks to fill in to keep you guessing and on your toes.
Laura Lippman is masterful at filling in the pertinent background with the backwards and forwards story telling.
Equally important is the way she builds the tension, suspense and impact with character development rather than gratuitous violence.
The multilayered, absorbing narrative has enormous momentum and clever details.
Easily the best in the Tess Monaghan series and a powerful follow-up to last year's spectacular "Every Secret Thing."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vat in the Vorld Vas She Thinking?,
People seem to love this author--and I rather liked Every Secret Thing myself--but I had to force myself to finish this one. The title has nothing to do with the book, for starters; the humor is all facetiousness--there's rarely anything genuinely funny about it; the plot is tediously predictable; and finally, in the penultimate chapter, one of the characters--suddenly and inexplicably bereft of a thick accent--explains the whole silly shebang to another character (who already very well knows everything) strictly for the readers' benefit in a bit of bad dialogue and plotting laziness that almost made me throw the book across the room. I'm sure I'll give Ms. Lippman another chance someday--she is, I think, much better than this--but here she is just phoning it in. Three stars for Isaac and the Jewish uncle ONLY.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 2005 Edgar Award Nominee And Best Tess Monaghan Mystery Yet!,
Mark Rubin, a modern Orthodox Jew, a loving husband and father, a wealthy furrier, believed himself the most fortunate of men. He thought he had the perfect family and a near flawless marriage. When his beautiful wife, Natalie, and their three children, Isaac, Penina and Efraim go missing, with no sign of foul play, the police back away from the case. The official point of view is that Mrs. Rubin probably packed-up and left with their children, whom Mark adores. This is totally incomprehensible to him. In desperation, Rubin turns to Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan, a former reporter for the Baltimore Star. She agrees to take the case, with some skepticism. Detective Monaghan has a gut feeling her new client has not been totally forthcoming with the details. He doles out vitally important information, reluctantly, in piecemeal fashion. She initially views him as a cold, controlling man, and has a bit of difficulty working with him because of their cultural differences. He just rubs her the wrong way. Also, there are very few clues on which to base the investigation. On the other hand, Tess needs the money.
Tess' full name is Theresa Esther Weinstein Monaghan. The Weinstein part of the name comes from her mother. Tess is "half" Jewish and her interaction with the Orthodox Rubin causes issues of her own to surface. She is somewhat familiar with Jewish tradition, as she is with the Monaghan family's Christianity. While not particularly observant in either religion, she finds herself reflecting on the roles faith, culture, and religion play in her own family. She realizes the importance of understanding this aspect of Mark Rubin's life in order to succeed with the investigation. Tess' Uncle Donald recommended her for this particular job. He spent years working with Ruben in a volunteer program that instructed Jewish prisoners in rituals and traditions. Eventually, other members of the program will be called upon for their assistance in resolving the mystery.
Tapping into a national network of "sister" investigators on her PC, (the SnoopSisters), Tess soon learns the location of the Rubin family. However, it seems a fifth member has been added to the entourage, a man described by witnesses as "handsome," "charming" and otherwise unremarkable. Little do they know. It soon becomes apparent that underneath the illusion of family bliss lies a web of deceit. Nothing is as it seemed. Suddenly the search becomes precarious and takes on a new urgency. Lives may be at stake.
This is Tess' eighth case and she has established quite a professional name for herself. She is recognized as a professionally competent PI, but unfortunately the same cannot be said about her personal life. Tess continues to be commitment phobic. Her very cool boyfriend, Crow, is taking a break. He's out of town visiting his mom who has been quite ill. Tess also has a problem with the impending marriage of her Aunt Kitty. "By A Spider's Thread" finds her alone with her two dogs, recovering from her last case's very heavy baggage and puzzling over this new job. However, Ms. Monaghan is more than a semi-neurotic, feisty detective. The lady has depth. She has evolved into a complex, vulnerable, substantial woman of wit and some significant wisdom. This latest novel, just nominated for the 2005 Edgar Award, is the best, most spellbinding Tess Monaghan mystery yet.
Multi-award winning author Laura Lippman is golden at creating and developing her characters, and it is precisely this strength that gives her plots depth and believability. Her people are not always likeable or sympathetic, but they're the real thing - human! She gives just enough clues and information to keep the suspense escalating, the tension building, but she does not give up her mysteries easily. I was absolutely riveted by this complex, multi-layered plot which holds surprises, chills and even a few laughs. Expect a thrilling conclusion!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More suspense than mystery,
May contain spoilers
In many of the novels in her Tess Monaghan series, Laura Lippman tries a different approach. One is told from Crow's point of view, one is set in Texas instead of Baltimore, etc. In "Spider's Thread" she uses multiple points of view. When one of these POVs is the scheming bad guy, this creates a problem because the bad guy obviously knows his entire scheme from the beginning, but he only doles it out to the reader (or Lippman only doles it out) in bits and pieces so the reader remains in what's-next anticipation. Too much a sense of the author's hand. It's better when it's only Tess' POV and I believe this novel could have been written that way.
By halfway through this novel it's pretty clear what everyone's motives are and why they are doing what they are doing. The only question is how it's going to play out. The ending is a classic How Will They Escape from the Death Trap? That's where Lippman absolutely nails it. I did not see it coming, even though I should have because it fit perfectly.
Also, the "explanation" of why the police would not suspect homicide at the end is so far fetched as to be unworthy of our bad guy. No message would be left behind?
Liked Isaac. One plucky kid. The Judaism bits were interesting. Mark seemed more like a construct than a real person. The portrait of the ex-con carpenter living with his shame touched me.
All in all, a good but not great Tess effort. It's still true that Lippman's standalones are her true masterpieces, expecially "What the Dead Know."
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By a Spider's Thread: A Tess Monaghan Novel by Laura Lippman (Mass Market Paperback - May 29, 2012)
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