Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Hush Hush

Summary: The award-winning New York Times bestselling author of After I’m Gone, The Most Dangerous Thing, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know brings back private detective Tess Monaghan, introduced in the classic Baltimore Blues, in an absorbing mystery that plunges the new parent into a disturbing case involving murder and a manipulative mother.

On a searing August day, Melisandre Harris Dawes committed the unthinkable: she left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, although there was much skepticism about her mental state. Freed, she left the country, her husband and her two surviving children, determined to start over.

But now Melisandre has returned Baltimore to meet with her estranged teenage daughters and wants to film the reunion for a documentary. The problem is, she relinquished custody and her ex, now remarried, isn’t sure he approves.

Now that’s she’s a mother herself—short on time, patience—Tess Monaghan wants nothing to do with a woman crazy enough to have killed her own child. But her mentor and close friend Tyner Gray, Melisandre’s lawyer, has asked Tess and her new partner, retired Baltimore P.D. homicide detective Sandy Sanchez, to assess Melisandre’s security needs.

As a former reporter and private investigator, Tess tries to understand why other people break the rules and the law. Yet the imperious Melisandre is something far different from anyone she’s encountered. A decade ago, a judge ruled that Melisandre was beyond rational thought. But was she? Tess tries to ignore the discomfort she feels around the confident, manipulative Melisandre. But that gets tricky after Melisandre becomes a prime suspect in a murder. Yet as her suspicions deepen, Tess realizes that just as she’s been scrutinizing Melisandre, a judgmental stalker has been watching her every move as well. . . . -- William Morrow

I actually couldn't wait to read the new Tess Monaghan novel HUSH HUSH by Laura Lippman. I adore Ms. Lippman's novels, especially her ones starring Tess; and I just knew when I picked up this book that I'd be in for a treat. I am happy to say that I wasn't disappointed!

In HUSH HUSH, the reader finds a newer, but certainly not gentler Tess Monaghan. She is now a mother to Carla Scout, a toddler who give Tess a run for her money in stubbornness and determination. Tess's uncle and lawyer to Melisandre Harris Dawes recommends Tess and her partner to Sandy Sanchez for security detail for Melisandre.

Tess reluctantly takes the job. She isn't an expert on security by any stretch of the imagination, and she's not exactly thrilled to have Melisandre for a client. About ten years ago, Melisandre left her two month old daughter in the car on a very hot August day while she sat on the shores of the Patapsco River. She was tried for the baby's death but found not guilty by reason of insanity. She served some time in a mental hospital and later left the country. Now she's back in Baltimore and wants to be reunited with her two other teenage girls. And... she's hired someone to make a documentary on her life and the state of mental health in our country!

As frustrating as Carla Scout can be, Tess can't really begin to understand the desperation (?) Melisandre felt to neglect her child in such a way. After meeting Melisandre and having a few testy exchanges, Tess begins to wonder if Melisandre was really beyond rational thought or just a deceptive criminal. When another person close to Melisandre ends up dead, Melisandre becomes the prime suspect in that murder too; and Tess finds herself rather deep in this manipulative woman's life!

I loved HUSH HUSH, but that's not really a surprise! I couldn't put this book down and that's really saying something given my current reading schedule... or lack thereof! I absolutely love Tess and seeing how she's navigating life as a private detective and a mom was so interesting. In addition, Melisandre was fascinating (in a scary way!) and the mystery aspects of the novel were outstanding. Finally, I appreciated what Ms. Lippman tried to do with the theme of motherhood.

First of all, Tess is just a terrific character and if you haven't read one of the Tess Monghan novels then you are missing out in a major way. Tess is so real to me and seeing her as a mother brings her character to an entirely new light. I loved the dynamics between Tess and Carla Scout -- they were pretty funny and I do think Carla Scout is going to give Tess a run for her money over the next few years! In addition, I appreciate seeing Tess balance the major challenges of working and parenting.

And then there's Tess as a crime solving private investigator... she's so good and so smart. She does get some help from Sanchez, her partner and a retired cop, (who is also a fantastic character!) I definitely appreciated how Tess got inside Melisandre's twisted mind, and I do think being a new mom (and all that comes with it) helped her to understand Melisandre's behavior. In addition, I saw a softer side to Tess in this book -- she definitely had some compassion for a few characters -- that worked in her favor in figuring out the murders.

In addition to loving anything starring Tess, I enjoyed HUSH HUSH because I found the mystery (or mysteries) to be intriguing. There were definitely some twists and turns in the story, and Melisandre was scary enough (and smart enough) to be very dangerous. Her manipulative personality played a major role in how she worked people, and every time I thought I had part of the story figured out, I was thrown for another loop.

And finally, HUSH HUSH had an interesting underlying theme of good versus bad parenting, and especially as it relates to being a mother. I really liked how Ms. Lippman wove these themes into the story first by making the reader question Melisandre's actions and motivations. But I also appreciated seeing this through Tess's behavior as a mother to a challenging toddler. Carla Scout was a lot like my daughter, and I could so appreciate Tess's emotions and difficulties with controlling her behavior. There is one scene in particular in a market that brought back nightmares to me!

HUSH HUSH would make a great book club pick. I wasn't able to find a formal discussion guide on-line but I don't think one is necessary. There is a great deal to discuss about parenting and mother/child relationships. In addition, there are some issues relating to both Tess's and Sandy's personal lives that might be interesting to analyze. Some of the themes you might want to explore include parenting styles, marriage, the insanity plea, depression, and parental guilt.

I'm not the only one that's glad to see Tess back. Check out this new site devoted to HUSH HUSH!

I loved HUSH HUSH and can't wait to see what Lippman next brings to the table! Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I love Tess too and haven't read one of these books in a long, long time. Too long, now that I think about it.