Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: In a Strange City

Summary: New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan must put her PI skills to the ultimate test when she falls into the crosshairs of a psychopath who knows everything about her. For the past fifty years on the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe, a person wearing a cloak has placed three roses and a half bottle of cognac on the writer’s gravesite. PI Tess Monaghan has never witnessed the event. But when John P. Kennedy, an eccentric antiques dealer, asks her to uncover the identity of the caped visitor, who he believes has duped him with the sale of an inauthentic antique, Tess decides to hold vigil on the night the cloaked stranger is expected to make an appearance. But the custom takes on a bizarre, fatal twist when two cloaked figures arrive. The imitator leaves his tribute and then makes his escape…after shooting the first visitor.

Warning bells tell Tess to steer clear of this case. But when roses and cognac appear on her doorstep, Tess’s curiosity is piqued. She soon discovers that John P. Kennedy has vanished into thin air and much of what he told her was questionable. Then the identity of the shooting victim comes to light, and all clues seem to point to the possibility he was the target of a hate crime. But Tess isn’t convinced. What was his connection to the decades-long Edgar Allan Poe tradition and to the killer? When more cryptic clues are left at her home, Tess realizes that someone is watching her every move...someone who’s bent on killing again. -- William Morrow

When I picked up IN A STRANGE CITY by Laura Lippman, I didn't realize that it was a re-release. At first, I was a little disappointed. But then I realized that, while I've read quite a few of her novels, there are still a lot of them for me to explore... and that made me much happier. I think Ms. Lippman is officially a must-read author for me and maybe even one of my favorites!

IN A STRANGE CITY is an early novel in the Tess Monoghan series. I've come to know and love Tess through the more recent books, so it was nice to get to know her when she was a bit younger and a bit more inexperienced as a private investigator. Of course, she still had all the necessary skills to solve complex crimes!

John P. Kennedy, aka piggy man, is an antiques dealer who comes to Tess asking for some help in finding a missing bracelet that once belonged to the Baltimore legend Betsy Bonaparte. He thinks the person responsible for stealing the bracelet is none other than the mysterious cloaked man who shows up every year at Edgar Allen Poe's gravesite on Poe's birthday. Tess thinks Kennedy is nut and declines the case; however, her curiosity about Poe's visitor is piqued so she and her boyfriend decide to stake out the cemetery hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

Surprise. Surprise. There are two visitors that night and one is killed! If you know anything about Tess, then you know she's not going to just let this go even if it means crossing a policeman who thinks she's hiding something. When the victim of the shooting is identified, it looks like it might be a hate crime, but Tess has her doubts. Tess begins her own investigation to discover: why was this man killed, is he tied to the missing bracelet, how is the Poe visitor involved, and more? However, Tess might be in for more than she bargained for when she begins receiving some mysterious notes and realizes that someone out there knows her every move!

IN A STRANGE CITY was a fantastic read! I absolutely devoured this intriguing mystery and once again realized that Ms. Lippman is just a terrific author... as if I still had any question, right? The mystery is fantastic, and I honestly was scratching my head the entire book. The story was full of interesting characters and plot twists, and I have to say it just might be my new favorite Tess novel.

One thing I absolutely loved about this novel was the story surrounding Poe. I am always impressed with how Ms. Lippman brings the city of Baltimore to life, and she definitely outdid herself in this book. She explored the tradition of the Poe visitor, a cloaked man who leaves a bottle of cognac and three roses on Poe's grave each year on his birthday; and the event is just strange enough that it lent itself perfectly to a murder mystery.

Another thing Ms. Lippman did really well was introduce some intriguing characters to this story. Not only was there a detective who had it in for Tess, but there was also a "friend" from Tess's past that played an important role in hate crime aspect of the murder. In addition, there was also another female P.I. that worked with Tess to solve the murders. She and Tess didn't exactly get along, and I thought their shared scenes were smart and funny!

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how fantastic the mystery was -- I think I already mentioned this but it's worth mentioning again. The murder plot was so complex and smartly written, and I was extremely impressed. The cast of characters who were involved were just that... characters; and their eccentricities definitely made the story more enjoyable. I also loved that I was surprised because lately I've done a pretty good job in figuring out mysteries.

All in all, I thought IN A STRANGE CITY was an excellent mystery... and it's perfect for the upcoming Halloween season because of the Poe background. Highly recommended to fans of the Tess Monoghan series as well as mystery lovers!

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.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

I love Lippman! I'm pretty sure I read this book years ago.