Friday, January 18, 2013

Laura Lippman: Baltimore Blues

This is the first book in Laura Lippman's Tess Monagham series. Lippman tries her hand at writing a novel after spending 20 years as a journalist and she is sticking within what she knows with the characters and plot. The first Tess Monagham story is about an out of work journalist with a passion for rowing and snooping when there is a pay check behind it:

Tess Monagham has been down in the employment department for several years now. Ever since she lost her job when the Star newspaper went under she has struggled to find a new journalist position, she has been working at he aunt's bookstore mostly but also writing some media releases for he uncle every one in awhile, but nothing with real career potential for her. However, in the city of Baltimore where there is a murder every day Tess was bound to be stuck in the middle of one eventually. Hired by a rowing buddy of hers, Rock, to follow his fiancé he suspects of cheating, Tess may feel sleazy about doing it but she really needs the money. What Tess does not expect to find is a selfish woman who is willing to do anything and everything to get her way and when Tess confronts her it sets off a change of events that no one could have foreseen. Where the past and present mysteries come together, Tess finds herself in the line of fire where her name could be the next on the homicide list in Baltimore.

I really wanted to like this book, as there appears to be quite a few books within the series and I am always looking for new series to get into that are already established so I am not constantly waiting for the next book to come out. This book was okay and the overall feeling I had when finishing this book was "meh".  The book was easy to read and follow, with some fairly good twists and turns thrown in, but overall I felt like the book moved slowly and I never felt the suspense or overall need to never put the book down while reading this book, the book was just there when I needed it. Overall, this book lacked something interesting occurring. Events just happened and flowed too smoothly into each other, there was no bang or what I think would be a huge discovery. If there was a discovery, I found that Tess lacked the ability to see what was in front of her and where she should go next. In general I felt the book fell a little bit flat, except for what felt like a rush to the finish as I never felt really suspense in the book. Yes, there is some mystery but I found the investigation part by once Journalist Tess to be boring.

I had a hard time relating to the main character Tess. She has been out of work for over two years, and really does not seem to have any ambition to pursue a new career or find something else within journalism. She seems content to be unemployed especially when her family is there to help support her and this also gives her the freedom to continue her training as a rower. I am not sure what skills an investigative journalist should have but I think that Lippman does a good job of giving Tess the tools that she needs to succeed in investigations (I liked that she was able to pull from people who she had done interviews or stories about in the past) but I do not think that she put the tools to great use or the best of her ability. Additionally, there were many times within the book that I felt that her investigation was secondary. A character that I think would have been an interesting aspect in the story or if there was more of him is the guy that is called "twisted fucker", not kidding that is his nickname. He was an interesting character and a story about him would have been very interesting, although disturbing, but the story would not have been boring.

I think that Lippman has a good ability to write and tell a story, there was just something missing throughout the book. I think that it may have been that the murder investigation always feeling secondary to Tess trying to rediscover herself, or determine what she is doing with her life but then never really doing anything about it. However, this book was easy to read. I would suggest either borrowing this book from the library or picking it up at a used book store. There was nothing too memorable in the book that would leave me coming back for more. I may pick up (and by pick up I mean borrow from the library) to see if the second book is better, but this would be when my TBR shelf had disappear (something that is not going to happen any time soon).

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