Baltimore Blues – 3 (3.5)/5
There’s something excited about starting a new series and finding something engaging and interesting about it. I love the Wire and when I reviewed another, later Laura Lippman novel, I talked about how I felt like the novel had the feel of the city right. And in some ways, or different ways, it captures more of Baltimore or a different slice of it, also accurately. The thing the Wire was never great at doing was capturing any part of the weird middle class culture there. Not that THAT story needs a lot of telling, but there’s a lot of Baltimore that The Wire never showed us.
This book also gives a continuation of that story. I loved to Baltimore in 2006 to take a job, and so the version of the city I found was not all that different from this one. Mine was more transitioned than in transition.
Tess is a former reporter, now working as a bookshop clerk for her aunt, in whose building she lives rent free. She’s overly energetic, a runner and a rower, who is still trying to figure things out in her life post-firing/lay off from her paper. She is approached by a rowing friend whose fiance is acting strangely and asks Tess to investigate. Anticipating an affair, she finds a more confusing picture that results in a famous tv lawyer dead and her friend on bail for his murder. Then begins a longer search for the more seedy answer to the question of who killed this man. Tess is not overly charming, but her life is appealing and the voice in the novel is clear enough and interesting enough. I liked this in the 3-3.5 star range and because I have access to them, I am going to continue to listen to the audiobooks.
Charm City – 3.5/3/5
Same as above, I am looking at about a 3.5 or so out five. This is the second of the Tess Monaghan novels and it both came out and takes place about 6 months after the first novel. We find Tess more gainfully employed, working on retainer as the investigator for his friend’s lawyer. She ends up taking some contract work doing an internal investigation for the city newspaper when an otherwise spiked or delayed story finds its way on the front page against the editors’ wishes. The story discusses the checkered financial, criminal, and relationship history of a local businessman and Baltimore sports hero who is lobbying to bring a NBA team back to Baltimore. When I lived in Baltimore, it was 20 years after the Colts moved to Indianapolis and 30 years after the Bullets left for Washington DC, and every body was still pissed. So this tracks.
The story also involves Tess’s cousin/uncle/who knows bartender beaten into a coma with Tess left with a beleaguered retired greyhound in her care. The novel also spends a lot of time in the specific suburbs/corner of Baltimore I used to lived in, so I felt very comfortable with the geography and basic sense of the layout.