Top critical review
An OK, 3.5 Star, Debut Mystery Novel Set in Baltimore, The Author Merits Further Reading
Reviewed in the United States on September 2, 2019
"Baltimore Blues" is a decent first effort at a mystery novel by author Laura Lippman. It is fairly clearly written as far as style. The storyline itself seemed unlikely and slightly convoluted. The novel is slightly lengthy for the story itself and consequently, occasionally moves along slowly. However I did like it on the whole and plan on reading another "Tess Monaghan" novel in the future.
The protagonist is Tess Monaghan, a former newspaper reporter in Baltimore. I definitely like her as a character. She, more or less, gets drawn into a investigative situation that she is not ready for. However she is very smart and sort of stumbles her way along. As a retired police detective I found some of her interviewing and investigative methods borderline inept. But this is a first effort for both the author and Tess Monaghan...
I enjoy reading all sorts of literature and break down my reading into categories. One of many such categories is debut novels. I found a curious coincidence in this novel with two other debut private investigation novels. In this novel there is a discussion about the proper use of "who and whom". A similar conversation occurs in Robert B. Parker's first private detective novel, "The Godwulf Manuscript", and Sara Paretsky's first such novel, "Indemnity Only". So what you ask? So nothing, just curious. I did like both of those debut detective novels better than this one. And I greatly preferred Sue Grafton's first Kinsey Millhone novel, "A is for Alibi".
I reside in Pennsylvania and worked as a police officer in Pa. Among my duties were cold case violent felonies. I once was the lead on a cold case double homicide. The victims were two senior citizens, minding their own business when they were the victims of a home invasion. There were no immediate suspects. Needless to say, we were not going to stand for this. We had to re investigate the case, develop suspects, build a circumstantial case with no confessions, four years after the fact. Then we had to spend a lot of time in Baltimore, of course outside of my jurisdiction, rather painstakingly reviewing a possible alibi for the offenders. Anyway that particular effort took me through a huge part of the city, including where this story is set, and in a similar time frame. Anyway I greatly enjoyed Tess Monaghan's travels throughout Baltimore and the story definitely had a serious Deja Vu aspect to it for me. But that particular enjoyment is very idiosyncratic.
In summary I liked this novel and see real potential for the author. I would give it more of 3.5 stars than 3, but I give a lot of novels four stars and that is a slight stretch in this case. The novel seems just a little bit too long for the story. I almost never read the same author twice in a row without a break in between. But I liked this novel enough that I have already purchased the author's second novel "Charm City" and will read it probably in a few months time. In the event one wishes to read a different author with a similar protagonist, in order to compare and contrast, one might consider "Front Page Fatality" by LynDee Walker. Thank You...