The Barnes & Noble Review
Following her triumphant venture into stand-alone suspense with Every Secret Thing, Laura Lippman returns to her award-winning Tess Monaghan mystery series.
Although private investigator Tess Monaghan hates matrimonial cases, she hates the idea of being bankrupt even more, so she agrees to look for Mark Rubin's missing family. As far as the police are concerned, there is no sign of foul play. Natalie Rubin simply took her three children and vanished. At first Tess is inclined to agree. While Mark can't imagine why Natalie wasn't happy as the wife of a wealthy furrier, Tess can see plenty of reasons why the woman might have found her marriage suffocating. Natalie had been married young, to a man 12 years her senior. Although her husband didn't limit his beautiful wife's spending, she was expected to account for every penny. And though she'd been raised a secular Jew, Mark admits that he wouldn't have married her if she hadn't agreed to embrace the tenets of Orthodoxy.
As Tess digs deeper into the circumstances surrounding Natalie's disappearance, she discovers that Mark has concealed many things, including the fact that he met Natalie while volunteering as a visitor in the prison where Natalie's father is still serving out a sentence for murder -- and that Natalie has been blackmailed by her father in the past. Battling her client for the information she desperately needs, Tess has two allies: an online network of women investigators and Mark's nine-year-old son, who is determined to reunite his family. But even Mark doesn't know that painful secrets he's concealed about his own family are about to explode violently. By a Spider's Thread is a very strong book with no holds barred when it comes to plot or emotion. Sue Stone
Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan's Jewish roots (her mother was a Weinstein) show in her eighth outing (after The Last Place). Hired by Mark Rubin, a successful furrier and Orthodox Jew, to find his missing wife, Natalie, and their three children, Tess is driven to research the religion of her client, who's secretive, controlling, and apparently in denial. (For further assistance, Tess calls on Snoop Sisters, an online network of female PIs that even provides a retired librarian to tail her quarry.) Readers know early on that Natalie leaves for love, but only by the end are all the connections revealed among Mark, Natalie, her lover, and a former outreach program for Jews in Maryland prisons. Ex-journalist Lippman's knowledge of social services and public records serves her well here, as she spins another taut, masterly tale full of complex characters, including feisty Tess herself. Lippman lives in Baltimore. [See Mystery Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.] Michele Leber, Arlington, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
“The fast-paced, intelligent story involves a maze of betrayal, surprises and a murder.”
“Again, Yes! To Tess.”
“Laura Lippman in her series featuring Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan just keeps getting better and better.”
“Tess is feisty . . . And it is a joy to watch her come alive.”
Toronto Globe and Mail
“Compulsively readable” may be a cliché, but it’s a perfect description for this novel.
Time Out New York
“By a Spider’s Thread—arguably the most complex, moving novel in her Tess Monaghan detective series.”
Read an Excerpt
By a Spider's Thread
By Lippman, Laura
William Morrow & Company ISBN: 0060506695
They were in one of the "I" states when Zeke told Isaac he had to ride in the trunk for a little while. Zeke announced this new plan in what Isaac thought of as his fakey voice, big and hollow, with too much air in it. This was the voice Zeke used whenever Isaac's mother was nearby. He used a very different one when she couldn't hear.
"You brought this on yourself, buckaroo," Zeke said, securing the suitcases to the roof of the car, then making a nest in the center of the trunk. When Isaac just stared at the space that had been created, not sure what Zeke wanted him to do, Zeke picked him up under the arms, swinging him into the hole as if Isaac weighed nothing at all. "See, plenty of room."
"Put down a blanket," Isaac's mother said, but she didn't object to the trunk idea, didn't say it was wrong or that she wouldn't allow it. She didn't even mind that Zeke had stolen the blanket from the motel room. She just stood there with Penina and Efraim huddled close to her, looking disappointed. That was the last thing Isaac saw before Zeke closed the trunk: his mother's face, sad and stern, as if Isaac were the bad one, as if he had caused all the trouble. So unfair. He was the one who was trying to do the right thing.
The trunk was bigger than Isaac expected, and he was not as frightened as he thought he would be. It was too bad it was such an old car. A new one, like his father's, might have an emergency light inside, or even a way to spring the lock. His father had shown him these features in his car after he found Isaac playing with the buttons on his key ring -- popping the trunk, locking and unlocking the Cadillac's doors. Isaac's mother had yelled, saying the key ring wasn't a toy, that he would break it or burn out the batteries, but Isaac's father had shown Isaac everything about his new car, even under the hood. That was his father's way. "Curiosity didn't kill the cat," his father said. "Not getting answers to his questions was what got the cat in trouble." His father had even shut himself in the trunk and shown Isaac how to get out again.
But this car was old, very old, the oldest car Isaac had ever known, probably older than Isaac. It didn't have airbags, or enough seat belts in the backseat. Isaac kept hoping a policeman might pull them over one day because of the seat belts. Or maybe a toll taker would report his mother for holding one of the twins in her lap in the front seat, which she did when they fussed. But there were no tolls here, not on the roads that Zeke drove. Isaac was trying so hard to keep track -- they had started out in Indiana, and then they went to Illinois, but Isaac was pretty sure that they had come back to Indiana in the past week. Or they could still be in Illinois, or even as far west as Iowa. It was hard to see differences here in the middle of the country, where everything was yellow and the towns had strange names that were hard to pronounce.
It was hard to tell time, too, without school marking the days off, without a calendar on the kitchen wall, without Shabbat reminding you that another week had ended. Would God understand about missing Shabbat? If God knew everything, did he know it wasn't Isaac's fault that he wasn't going to yeshiva? Or was it up to Isaac to find a way to pray no matter what, the way his father did when he traveled for business? Now, this was the kind of conversation his father loved. He would have started pulling books from the shelves in his study, looking for various rabbis' opinions. And, whatever the answer was, his father would have made Isaac feel okay, would have assured him that he was doing his best, which was all God expected. That was his father's way, to answer Isaac's questions and make him feel better.
His father knew everything, or close enough. He knew history and the Torah, math and science. He knew lots of terrific old war movies and westerns, and the names of all the Orioles, past and present. Best of all, he could talk about the night sky as if it were a story in a book, telling the stories that the Greeks and Indians had told themselves when they looked at the same stars.
"Does Orion ever catch the bull?" Isaac had asked his father once. Of course, that had been when he was little, six or seven. He was nine now, going into the fourth grade, or supposed to be. He wouldn't ask such a question now.
"Not yet," his father had said, "but you never know. After all, if the universe is really shrinking, he may catch up with him still."
That had scared Isaac, the part about the universe shrinking, but his father had said it wasn't something he needed to worry about. But Isaac worried about everything, especially now. He worried about Lyme disease and West Nile virus and whether Washington, D.C., would get a baseball team, which his dad said might not be so good for the Orioles. He worried about the twins, who had started talking this weird not-quite-English to each other.
Mostly, though, he worried about Zeke and how to get away from him.
Despite being locked in the trunk, bouncing and bumping down the road, Isaac wasn't sorry that he had tried to talk to the guard man. His only mistake was letting his mother see him do it. If the line in the bank had been longer, if it hadn't moved so fast, he might have had time to explain himself. Why did lines move fast only when you didn't want them to? Continues...
Excerpted from By a Spider's Thread by Lippman, Laura Excerpted by permission.
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