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

22 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 (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,039,978 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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Crime writer Laura Lippman, the winner of every important mystery award (an Edgar, a Shamus, an Anthony, and an Agatha), now pays tribute to the man many consider to be the world's premier mystery writer - Edgar Allen Poe. "In A Strange City," Lippman's sixth novel to feature PI Tess Monaghan is set in Baltimore where in the predawn hours of every January 19th, the anniversary of Poe's birthday, a coterie of the famed author's fans wait to see a mysterious visitor who comes to Poe's tomb bearing 3 blood red roses and a bottle of cognac.
This year, Tess is among those waiting for a glimpse of the mysterious "Poe Visitor." She is surprised to see not one but two cloaked men carrying the appropriate tributes; she is even more surprised to see one murdered as the other escapes into the semi-darkness.
Bobby Hilliard, a 28-year-old gay waiter is the victim. The senseless beating of another gay man some days earlier and Hilliard's death arouse the local gay and lesbian rights group headed by Tess's former friend attorney Cecelia Cesnik. The group insists that a maniacal homophobe is running amok.
Tess soon finds herself enmeshed in a multi-layered swirl of events pulling her in opposite directions. Hammered on by the chief detective who thinks she knows more than she's telling, our heroine is also stalked by an unknown person who leaves cognac and three red roses by her front door.
There's more than mere murder here as Tess suspects a complicated scheme involving priceless antiques and other black marketables begins to emerge.
Ms. Lippman has laced her latest thriller with strains of greed and homophobia, and included such Poe-isms as a victim buried alive and a ticking clock. It makes for a unique and compelling read.
- Gail Cooke
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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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