When it appears a rowing buddy of hers murdered his fiancee's boss and lover, underemployed Tess Monaghan sets about trying to clear his name. But did Rock kill ace attorney Michael Abramowitz? If he didn't, who did and why? And can Tess find out before she winds up as dead as the lawyer?
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the girl I was seeing at the time told me I would like Laura Lippman. Since she was always pushing books on me, I ignored her. Maybe she was right in that one particular instance.
Baltimore Blues is a mystery that has many more layers than it first appears, like baklava. See, I could have said "onion" but that's what everyone says when they talk about layers. Anyway, it was Laura Lippman's first trip to the dance and she did a lot better than most first time novelists.
As the title indicates, Baltimore plays a big part in the book, almost a character in and of itself, much like George Pelecanos' Washington DC, Dennis Lehane's Boston, and Lawrence Block's New York. Much like Detroit, Baltimore doesn't get by on looks. It has to work for a living, to paraphrase Elmore Leonard.
Since this was the first book in the series, Lippman had some groundwork to lay and she did it in a fairly painless way. We know Tess is into rowing, has an on again/off again reporter boyfriend named Jonathan and used to be a reporter but we don't get clubbed over the head with any of it. I liked that Tess isn't hot, wasn't involved in a love triangle, and generally behaved like a real person instead of being a moron like most fictional detectives wind up being in order to advance the plot. Also, she works in a bookstore. A lady detective that works in a bookstore? Hard to top that, ladies.
Like all great mysteries, it took me forever to figure out what really happened and it turned out I was still wrong. Part of it was misdirection but I have to say I think another part of it was that it was such a convoluted affair. That was my only gripe with the book. I thought the mystery was way too serpentine and not readily solveable. Also, I'm still pretty sure Ava was boning somebody besides Rock but that was never revealed.
So, I liked Baltimore Blues quite a lot but not enough to take it into a bus station men's room and have rough intercourse with it. I'll be reading more of Laura Lippman's chronicles of Tess Monaghan. 3.5 out of 5 stars.