Today I’m featuring a book from the Tess Monaghan series: The Sugar House, by Laura Lippman.
Intro: Henry looked at the tape recorder on the table in front of him. Voice-activated, the cop said. You talk, the wheels turn. He coughed, clearing his throat, and sure enough, the wheels lurched, then stopped.
My name is Henry Dembrow, he began. But they knew his name, it wasn’t the one they wanted. They kept asking him about the girl, and he didn’t have a name for her, not a fragment, not even a fake one. Why wouldn’t they believe him? My name is Henry Dembrow. He knew he was talking because he could see the tape recorder’s red light, but he couldn’t hear his voice, couldn’t tell if it was inside his head or out. He could hear other things—the wheezey breath of the one cop, like an old dog sleeping, the other cop’s shiny loafer going tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. He had small feet, that cop. But Henry couldn’t hear his own voice. It was as if he had a bad cold, his voice seemed to be coming from so far away. You talk, the wheels turn. You talk, the wheels turn.
Teaser: Like a dog with a bone, Tess worried the little bit she had, growling over it, turning it around in her mouth, trying to make it new. (p. 82)
Since her debut in 1997, Laura Lippman has won every major mystery writing award for this remarkable series, in which reporter-turned-PI Tess Monaghan and her beloved-but-flawed Baltimore share top billing. Now, the acclaimed author achieves a new level of mastery with a murderous puzzle that centers on places Tess thinks she knows: her hometown and a moving target called…
Locals recognize the Sugar House as a stubborn and defiant legacy of the city’s past that competes with Charm City’s glitzy present. Tess thought she knew it, too/–/until she is forced to take on the most disturbing case of her accidental career.
First there’s her client, former barmaid Ruthie Dembrow, who seems to know Tess’s father well, a little too well as far as his daughter is concerned. Then there’s the nature of the crime she’s asked to investigate/–/and its cast of characters.
“Ever heard of a Jane Doe murder?” Ruthie asks Tess, and with that question there’s no turning back. Fourteen months ago, Ruthie’s low-life brother, Henry, killed a runaway over a bottle of glue. His confession put him away, but no one ever learned the girl’s name. A month into his prison term, Henry met the same grim fate as his victim. Now Ruthie wants Tess to find out why.
With just a few tantalizing and elusive clues, Tess sets off on a path that takes her from Baltimore’s exclusive Inner Harbor to the city’s seediest neighborhoods. But it’s the shocking discovery of the runaway’s true identity that turns Tess’s hunt deadly. Suddenly, her supposedly solved murder case keeps turning up newer, fresher corpses and newer, scarier versions of the Sugar House-places that look so sweet and safe, but only from the outside. And every time Tess thinks she’s done what she has to do to protect her family, this decidedly sour case ends up back on her doorstep, ready to claim another life.
I’m eager to resume this series. Would you keep reading? Come on by and share your own featured reads.