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In a Strange City (Tess Monaghan Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 2002

21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Edgar, Shamus, Anthony and Agatha award winner Lippman (Charm City; Butchers Hill; The Sugar House) pays homage to the inventor of the mystery form in this masterly contemporary mystery, set in Baltimore and replete with her trademark dry, sardonic wit. Every January 19th, in honor of Edgar Allan Poe's birthday, a loyal clique waits in the small hours for the "Visitor," also known as the "Poe Toaster," to approach Poe's tomb. He wears a formal cape and carries three blood-red roses and a bottle of cognac as tribute. For some reason the press keep their distance, as do bystanders. This year, for the first time, PI Tess Monaghan is present, too, along with her boyfriend, Crow. Having been roped into attendance by a would-be client, Tess awaits the coming of the Visitor in the freezing winter night. Suddenly, two caped men with roses and cognac show up. A shot rings out one man lies dead, the other runs off. A deliciously complex story follows that brings Baltimore center stage and delves anew into the mysteries surrounding Poe himself. Tess finds her own life in danger, and becomes a primary player in a story she'd intended to view only from the periphery. The author offers a host of Poe-esque thrills, from multiple murders to a woman buried alive. In the denouement, the clock ticks rapidly while Tess matches wits with the killer in order to rescue the victim from her tomb before her air runs out. Lippman shows in this, her sixth novel, that she's indeed deserving of all the kudos she's received. (Sept. 11)Forecast: With national print advertising, a 15-city NPR campaign and a six-city author tour, this novel will be well positioned to climb the genre bestseller charts.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Lippman's second Tess Monaghan novel is a perfectly good mystery, but even more, it's an homage to the city of Baltimore. As seen through the eyes of PI Monaghan, the city is celebrated on almost every page, but the setting provides more than just ambience. The plot itself hinges on an obscure bit of Baltimore's literary history involving an anonymous figure who places a glass of brandy and a rose on Edgar Allan Poe's grave every January in honor of the writer's birthday. No one wants to unmask the identity of the "Poe Toaster" for fear of ending the beloved tradition. When a client entices Tess and her boyfriend, Crowe, to watch the ritual, Tess is surprised to find two toasters--and then even more surprised to witness the murder of one of them. The case of the faux toaster draws Tess into a complex mystery that just may hinge on who is leaving her notes quoting Poe. Readers won't be able to resist Tess, who, like one of Baltimore's famous stone crabs, sports a tough shell that hides a sweet center. Jenny McLarin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Tess Monaghan Mysteries
  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; Reprint edition (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380810239
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380810239
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,119,355 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

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Raymond M. Rose on February 23, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Laura Lippman took me by surprise, I have to admit. I saw an interview with her on CBS' Sunday Morning a couple of years ago and bought her most recent book for my dad. He's a mystery fan who likes his crime novels on the lighter side than me. I like Lehane, Connelly, Rankin - the noir stuff. How could this woman from Baltimore be writing stuff as good as the guys above? Not being sexist, here - I just couldn't see it. I should have thought of Laurie R. King who's Kate Martinelli series is as dark and good as the guys above. But, I didn't. I'm a moron! I just plowed through a litany of other books to read until I came upon this book. I asked my dad if he liked her and he replied, "Yes. A lot!" It dealt with Edgar Allen Poe and the Poe Visitor. Seemed interesting. So I gave it a try.

Man, was I wrong! Laura is great! Strange City is witty and dark and quick-paced and has characters that are real and fantastic. Tess is one hell of a woman and I'm okay to admit that I'm a little in love with her. She's smart and sexy and tough but still vulnerable. I totally underestimated Laura and I promise that I will never to do that again.

Keep at it Laura - Spenser ain't got nothing on you!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Doris Ann Norris on September 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Just when one thinks that Laura Lippman has hit her peak (as in "Sugar House"), she surprises the reader by going up a couple of more notches and she started out on a very high level with her first Tess Monaghan book, "Baltimore Blues."
In this fascinating novel, centered around the Baltimore tradition of the Poe Toaster who visits the author's grave each year on the anniversary of his death, Lippman has created a marvelous story.
Her characters, especially her protagonist Tess, continue to grow while her secondary characters are three dimensional. It's true that some of them would not be people you'd care to meet in a dark alley or even in a crowded room, but they fill the pages of the story and leave a lasting impression.
This is a fast paced mystery with Tess in the middle of collectors, Poe experts and police as she attempts to solve the murder as well as they mystery of Poe's anonymous visitor.
Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Fred Camfield on October 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits, and are melted into air, into thin air..." (from Shakespeare's "The Tempest"). This is one of the best mysteries I have read in recent years. It is an intriguing tale that revolves around the mysterious Visitor to Poe's grave who, every year, leaves three red roses and a half bottle of cognac. It is January 19. Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan and her boyfriend, Crow, are among the spectators keeping watch at Poe's grave. A cloaked figure appears, and then another. A shot is fired and a cloaked figure falls, mortally wounded. The second cloaked figure escapes in the commotion, fading into the shadows.
The case becomes complicated. There are people trying to identify and find the visitor for personal agendas. There are charges that the murder was a hate crime - the victim identified as a ... waiter. Tess is drawn into the case, willing or not, because other players think she may have information. Mysterious notes appear, along with roses or rose petals, from an unknown individual attempting to enlist her aid. There are questions about thefts of rare books and memorabilia. And there is collateral damage.
Along the way there are tidbits of information about Baltimore, and about Edgar Allan Poe including a pertinent poem ("From childhood's hour I have not been As others were; I have not seen As others saw; I could not bring My passions from a common spring." - from Poe's "Alone"). The case gradually unfolds as information develops about various players. Some people become unlikely allies, and relationships between people are revealed as the case is solved. Tess becomes the guardian of another dog, a friendly doberman named Miata.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Beverley Strong on October 11, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Every winter on the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe, a mysterious cloaked figure pays a visit to the renowned author's gravesite, bearing gifts of three roses and and half bottle of cognac. PI Tess Monahan is amonst the onlookers at this annual pilgrimage, when two caped visitors approach the gravesite... a shot rings out and one figure falls to the ground while the other escapes. When Tess recieves a visit from a strange, round ,little man who wants her to locate some mysterious missing goods connected with Poe, she and her boyfriend Crow become involved in a case of murder, theft, stalking and obbsessive collecting, all of which revolves around the life of Poe. I didn't really care all that much for this book, as I found it to be very muddled and rather difficult to follow. I've loved the previous books featuring Tess and Co., so hope that the next one is more appealing.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John O. Bronson on September 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
From the start Laura Lippman tries to trip up her readers by flicking a little Kennedy dust in their eyes. However, mystery fans who are also devoted rail road buffs and especially Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road buffs instinctively and adroitly fend off her efforts by instant recognition of the name JOHN PENDLETON KENNEDY. She even tries to steer one by mentioning the more fabled name John F. Kennedy. Nice try, Laura, but no sale here. Just who was John Pendleton Kennedy? Was he just another obscure 19th century lawyer, politician with hankering for literary fame? In addition to being intimately associated with Edgar Allen Poe he was also the member of Congress from Baltimore who sponsored the 1843 legislation to gain a hefty Federal subsidy for the first Morse telegraph line. He was also involved up to his ear lobes in rail road legislation, especially for the B&O R.R. He wrote a couple of not-so-notable novels of the period. He was well-to-do and helped Poe out with money and jobs many more times than once, but Poe could not stay away from the bottle.
E.A. Poe or his remains anyway, are center stage for a good deal of the time in this fascinating mystery. Lippman's chief PI, Tess Monaghan, and her six years junior beau, Crow are busy as beavers with the reluctant help of Pigtown native Gretchen O'Brien, a recently cashiered Baltimore cop turned PI. They have more than one crime to solve. Picayune and Byzantine lore of the old "Patapsico" town is littered all over the place. We learn about the light bulb museum, the Maryland Mu-sheum and of all things a feminine hygiene museum in Prince George's County near the U of Maryland main campus at College Park. It gets weird and weirder.
Get this book and all the other Laura Lippman titles.
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