Sunday, December 21, 2008

In a Strange City - Laura Lippman

In a Strange City is the sixth Tess Monaghan mystery from Laura Lippman. In this installment, Lippman makes use of a long-standing Baltimore tradition, the Poe Toaster or Visitor. If by some chance you aren't familiar with the Poe Toaster, he's the individual who shows up at Poe's grave on January 19th each year to leave roses and cognac. Only this year, there's a murder at Poe's grave when the Toaster is supposed to arrive.

Tess is not actually employed by anyone, but she begins to investigate who exactly the murder victim is and why he was murdered at Poe's grave site.

As with the previous Tess Monaghan books, I listened to this one on audio. However, the difference was a new reader, Laurence Bouvard. It's hard to hear a new voice when you've become accustomed to another voice as that character, but it was especially hard with this recording because Laurence Bouvard sounded like she was about 12. And her voice for Crow sounded pre-pubescent. All I could think of were those old prints that use to be available with various sports stars as little kids. Remember those? This reading simply did not work for me.

That being said, the plot of this caper was fantastic. I'm especially drawn to plots that weave in the classics. The Poe connection in Entombed was actually what got me started reading Linda Fairstein. Poe is a fascinating person from history, and Lippman did an excellent job of taking advantage of that Baltimore connection in this novel. And there is also the connection to Crow, who's real name is Edgar, and who's nickname evolved from Poe's The Raven poem.

And of course, I loved Lippman's treatment of the magic of this Baltimore ritual. The magic that almost mirrors that of Santa Claus. Everyone has the right to enjoy this ritual. And that belief sharply contrasts the covetous antagonists in the novel.

You have to pay attention in this novel because there is an intricate weaving of villains, but the investment is well worth it when the woven web catches it prey. The plot is fun, the characters are true to form - with a few new additions, and there's always a smattering of chuckles throughout.

3 comments:

Jim Stovall December 23, 2008 at 5:03 AM  

I'm partial to the whole Baltimore/Poe thing.

Thanks for the good summary of Lippman's latest.

I have linked this review on BooksPROF.

All the best,

Jim

Jim Stovall December 23, 2008 at 5:13 AM  

I should have included this link the previous comment:

The kind of fight I like -- over a man of letters

Thanks again.

Jen December 23, 2008 at 6:04 AM  

Thanks Jim! I thoroughly enjoyed your post, and I'd vote for Baltimore, too!

Happy Holidays!

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