Baltimore Blues was an Ellen Emerson White recommendation I am extremely glad I followed up on. I got it for Christmas and saved it for the work trip to Florida I took last week. I ended up spending seven hours sitting in airports so it was a good thing I had such an engrossing read with me. Although the result was an instant and urgent need to find a bookstore in Orlando (a shockingly difficult task, more on that later) to get my hands on the sequels. Eventually I managed to do this and I've been on a Laura Lippman binge ever since. I'll be reviewing the whole series as I finish them, so I figured I'd combine a couple titles here and there.
Baltimore Blues introduces the reader to Tess Monaghan, former newspaper reporter turned odd-job girl. Tess is a native Baltimorean and the city itself is without a doubt a main character in these novels. Lippman's love for and knowledge of Baltimore saturates every line--a real treat for readers who love ambiance and a real insider look into a city or region. Unemployed Tess is a creature of habit, filling up her time rowing on the Patapsco, eating breakfast at Jimmy's, mooching off her Aunt Kitty, and avoiding dinner with her disapproving, disappointed parents. Danger disrupts Tess' routine when she agrees to unofficially investigate a good friend's fiancee. A simple bout of snooping leads to a full-blown murder case and Tess soon finds herself fighting to clear her friend's name and watch her own back at the same time.
Charm City picks up a few months after the events of Baltimore Blues. Tess is still living above her Aunt Kitty's bookshop, and the endearing musician/bookseller Crow seems to have worn down some of Tess' reservations about a possible relationship. She's even relented enough to accept a job as an apprentice investigator for the curmudgeonly lawyer/rowing instructor Tyner. But this unusually "normal" period doesn't last long, as the editors of the Beacon-Light hire Tess to investigate a case of a reporter undermining the system, publishing a controversial article that was never meant to run. In no time, the subject of the article turns up dead. An apparent suicide. Tess follows the trail through the ranks of the newspaper, convinced the suicide was, in fact, murder. Several secondary characters get some great fleshing out in this second volume, notably Tess' best friend (and crack reporter) Whitney and the always awesome Crow. I am now completely hooked on this series and thrilled to find there are, count them, seven more to go and a brand new installment coming out in March. Bring on the fun.