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The Sugar House: A Tess Monaghan Mystery Hardcover – August 22, 2000

50 customer reviews
Book 5 of 12 in the Tess Monaghan Novel Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

If you haven't encountered Tess Monaghan, the strong-willed former reporter turned PI who stars in Laura Lippman's increasingly popular series, it may be because this is her first appearance in hardcover. But this deftly plotted mystery may change all that and bring Lippman, herself a Baltimore journalist, and Tess, her curious and likable heroine, the attention they deserve. When Tess's dad asks her to do a favor for a friend, Tess gets involved in tracking down the identity of a nameless girl whose killer, the friend's brother, was murdered himself shortly after he went to prison for the crime. Her search leads Tess in and out of parts of the Atlantic coast that tourists, and many natives, never see: to a clinic for the rich, young and anorexic on Maryland's Eastern Shore; to the Philadelphia Main Line; and inside the corrupt and clandestine corners of the Maryland state capitol in Annapolis. The more Tess learns, the more questions she has, and the most important ones have to do with her father's involvement in the mystery of the anonymous victim and how she died.

The subtext of this well-written, richly rendered thriller is Tess's confrontation with her own values and her struggle to accept her father's compromises with his. There's also a sexy love story with Tess's boyfriend, who's nearly too good to be true, and a lively gal pal, the wealthy and loyal Whitney, whose own talents are equally impressive. The author is good at developing multidimensional characters, the minor ones as well as the majors. And once your appetite is whetted by The Sugar House, you'll want to track down Tess's earlier adventures in Lippman's (paper) backlist, beginning with Baltimore Blues. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Glue-sniffing teen Henry Dembrow goes to prison after confessing to killing a young Jane Doe found with a small rubber hose tied in a bow around her neck. A month later he, too, is dead. Coincidence? Ruthie Dembrow, Henry's sister, has her doubts and asks former Baltimore reporter Tess Monaghan, the heroine of this first (and first-rate) hardcover in a justly acclaimed series, to investigate. Tess agrees only because her father, Patrick, says he owes Ruthie one. Going over the facts of the crime, Tess realizes that she needs to identify the victim and to learn how the victim came to know her alleged killer. On the home front, Patrick's disapproval of her current love, Crow, strains their relationship. Edgar and Agatha winner Lippman (Charm City; In Big Trouble), a feature writer for the Baltimore Sun, really knows her town. She takes Tess far from the tourist stops into crumbling, neglected parts of the historic port city and beyond. Annapolis, a questionable clinic on the Eastern Shore and Philadelphia all figure in Tess's struggle to uncover the connections between a sordid killing and the pursuit of wealth and power in the state capital. As she digs deeper with assists from her wealthy pal, Whitney, major players begin to squirm and lives and reputations are in danger, including her own. Far from perfect, Tess finds she must carefully consider the compromises others have made for good or ill while not straying too far from her own principles. Nobody gets away clean, but some scores are settled, which at times has to be enough. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Tess Monaghan Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (August 22, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380978172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380978175
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #980,469 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

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By booksforabuck VINE VOICE on December 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Tess Monaghan is a blue collar woman in Baltimore, the ultimate blue collar city. She agrees to take a case for a friend of her father's--trying to find out why the friend's brother died in prison. Her investigation leads her into both the upper reaches of society and down to a strange underworld of prostitution, unethical centers for treatment of eating disorders, and crooked politicians.
Laura Lippman has surrounded Tess with a charming assortment of friends and family members. Their obvious affection for Tess makes her more compelling to the reader. As Tess steps more and more deeply into danger, you'll find yourself turning the pages faster and faster. The mystery is well crafted and Lippman dangles clues, one by one, leaving the reader like Tess certain that there is a way of connecting them without actually able to do it.
This book is especially popular in Maryland which is great--as a longtime resident of Maryland I felt at home reading it--but it is far to good to be missed out on by the rest of us.
THE SUGAR HOUSE may be the best mystery you read this year.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Tom Gregg on May 15, 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Traditional American author and icon Mark Twain once observed that the ideal way to give one's writing more zip is to go over a manuscript and eliminate every third word. (I assume he was kidding, since Norman Mailer and Thomas Wolfe weren't even born during Twain's lifetime.) In the same vein, it would have been useful here if author Lippman and her editors had decided to either eliminate or severely trim the first six chapters, and get right to advancing the plot. All that early-on girl talk fluff may hold widespread female reader interest, but most guys will have trouble with it.

For the boys, the read/don't read question boils down to: can you wait six chapters for things to even begin to roll? If you can, you'll be pleased to see a whole lot of people with something to hide (seems like half the cast) eventually get their comeuppance. If you can't, other mysteries will take you where you want to go way faster.

This is neither here nor there, but you know what printing enhancement I'd like to see? For books such as this set in a real life big city and they're reeling off street names and landmarks and neighborhoods, it would be nice if they'd throw up a metro map on the endpapers to help with the orientation. I've seen this done elsewhere once or twice, and it helps.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kent Braithwaite on July 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As a mystery writer with my first book in its initial release, I genuinely admire Laura Lippman, an author who is clearly at the top of her game. SUGAR HOUSE is Lippman's first hardcover mystery, and it is a fabulous novel. Lippman's protagonist, Tess Monaghan, agrees to her father's request and attempts to identify a nameless dead girl whose murderer himself was murdered. To accomplish this task, Lippman takes us on a tour of the Atlantic coast. Tess journeys from her usual stomping grounds of Baltimore to Annapolis, Philadelphia, and Maryland's Eastern Shore. Lippman continues to develop her Tess character, as well as several supporting characters. SUGAR HOUSE's plot is first-rate, and Lippman's writing is smooth. It is difficult to believe that it has taken five paperback books for Tess to reach hardcover. SUGAR HOUSE is a great mystery, and I recommend it highly.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
WOW! Start with the cover with its dawn view across Baltimore's famed Inner Harbor of Domino's "Sugar House." Inside it gets even better. Laura knows Bawlmer and brings it to life. Throughout the Tess Monaghan series, she brings you the sights; the smells of McCormick's spices wafting across the harbor; the taste and diversity of the ethnic neighborhoods and foods (although I think I'll pass on the 'green pepper rings with powdered sugar'). Combine this with a well rounded mystery story with well developed and believable characters (including the animals) and you have a great book. Each of her books can be read individually, but I recommend starting with the first of the series, BALTIMORE BLUES, and following the series in order. And it's not just for Baltimoreans -- most other cities have similar neighborhoods, so no matter where you're from you will ENJOY!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Hannah M. Hurey on May 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Sugar House starts out with Tess trying to help a friend of her father's find out why her brother was killed in prision. This involves finding out who her brother killed to wind up in prision. Thus, Tess has to solve a Jane Doe murder. The only problem is that no one knows who this girl is or where she even came from. But determined to help her father, Tess starts out. With the help of her frind Whittney and her boyfriend Crowe she manages to track the girl to an exclusive eating disorder's clinic. Where she has to "fall overboard" to even get to talk to the patients.
As Tess digs deeper in the mystery all sorts of others don't want her too. She ends up getting shot at and her parent's house being burnt down. All to save a certain someone the embarrasement of losing his distinguished career.
I found the book a little hard to get into, but after about 100 pages it went really fast and the ending shocked me! It is a very good read and Tess is so much like your next door neighbor it is almost scary.
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