14 July 2011

THE GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT: Hitchcock, Acknowledged

I really liked mystery author Laura Lippmann's collection of short stories HARDLY KNEW HER, so I snatched a galley of her latest THE GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT up when offered knowing it featured her best known character, P.I. Tess Monaghan. I didn't know it was the latest in the Tess Monaghan series, future uncertain, so I guess if you are following it and you don't want to know, I will only say: I really liked this one! I would definitely consider going back to the beginning (that's 1997's BALTIMORE BLUES) and reading the whole series.

THE GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT is atypical from the volumes that precede it for another reason: As the book opens, Tess is on doctor-ordered bed rest for her surprise pregnancy, with little to do besides read books people bring over and stare out the window. Naturally, a nosy enough person can get into a mystery anywhere, as does Tess after the very striking woman she sees at the dog park across the street (wearing the green raincoat) leaves her greyhound behind one day. Now why would a husband not want to take back his wife's dog or let on where she is... unless... "Rear Window" jokes are made, but Tess gets a fair amount of investigating done from confinement, and what she can't do she leans on her best friend Whitney, her investigations assistant Mrs. Blossom and her long-suffering boyfriend Crow to accomplish with their feet.

Somewhat extraneous biographical details that will delight some of you: Tess is a lifelong resident of Baltimore, Maryland; She and Whitney, a flaky socialite type, met at Washington College where they were both on the rowing team, after which Whitney transferred to Yale. Lippmann, also a Baltimore native, lives in the Federal Hill neighborhood (according to Wikipedia) and is married to Other Famous Baltimorean David Simon.

I don't even want to demean THE GIRL IN THE GREEN RAINCOAT by saying it's a "poolside read," although it is fairly short. It reminded me of a Nancy Drew book, but in a good way -- all the loose ends all tied up. The ending comes kind of unglued, but it didn't bother me because there was enough suspense to carry me up to that point, part of which is furnished by Tess' need to not stress herself no matter how exciting the case gets.


Elizabeth said...

Yes, all of us in Baltimore are very proud of Laura Lippmann and David Simon, even if they're not always proud of us.

I hear that her novels are full of little references to real places in Baltimore, but, I'm rather ashamed to admit, I only got a couple of pages into BALTIMORE BLUES before getting bored out of my skull, quitting, and never looking back.

No, I'm not proud of it, but, on the bright side, I actually own a copy of BALTIMORE BLUES, which you are welcome to read on your impending reading vacation in Baltimore.

Ellen said...

If you see what looks like a giant tote bag with legs approaching your building... lock all the doors and turn the lights off!

I kid, I kid. It would be fun. The one Baltimore reference I remember in specific from this book, because another Hopkins alum I know mentions it often, is Tess begging her boyfriend to bring back some kind of pumpkin entree from Helmand (sp?) restaurant. Are you familiar?

Elizabeth said...

Yes, the baby pumpkin appetizer from The Helmand, an Afghan restaurant owned by Hamid Karzai's brother (really), is much admired. We can go there, but we'll need reservations.