Charm City (Tess Monaghan Series #2)

( 48 )

Overview

As a practiced reporter until her newspaper went to that great pressroom in the sky, P.I. Tess Monaghan knows and loves every inch of her native Baltimore, even the parts being slobbered on by the sad-sack greyhound she's minding for her uncle. It's a quirky city where baseball reigns, but lately homicide seems to be the second most popular local sport. Business tycoon "Wink" Wynkowski is trying to change all that by bringing pro basketball back to town, and everybody's rooting fro him—until a devastating, ...

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Overview

As a practiced reporter until her newspaper went to that great pressroom in the sky, P.I. Tess Monaghan knows and loves every inch of her native Baltimore, even the parts being slobbered on by the sad-sack greyhound she's minding for her uncle. It's a quirky city where baseball reigns, but lately homicide seems to be the second most popular local sport. Business tycoon "Wink" Wynkowski is trying to change all that by bringing pro basketball back to town, and everybody's rooting fro him—until a devastating, muckraking expose of his lurid past appears on the front page of the Baltimore Beacon-Light. It's a surprise even to the Blight's editors, who thought they'd killed the piece. Instead, the piece killed Wink—who's found in his garage with the car running.

Now the Blight wants to nail the unknown computer hacker who planted the lethal story, and the assignment is right up the alley of a former newshound like Tess. But it doesn't take long for her to discover deeper, darker secrets, and to realize that this situation is really more about whacking than hacking. It's just murder in Baltimore these days—and Tess Monaghan herself might be next on the list. As a practiced reporter until her newspaper went to that great pressroom in the sky, P.I. Tess Monaghan knows and loves every inch of her native Baltimore, even the parts being slobbered on by the sad-sack greyhound shes minding for her uncle. Its a quirky city where baseball reigns, but lately homicide seems to be the second most popular local sport. Business tycoon Wink Wynkowski is trying to change all that by bringing pro basketball back to town, and everybodys rooting fro him—until a devastating,muckraking expose of his lurid past appears on the front page of the Baltimore Beacon-Light. Its a surprise even to the Blights editors, who thought theyd killed the piece. Instead, the piece killed Wink—whos found in his garage with the car running.

Now the Blight wants to nail the unknown computer hacker who planted the lethal story, and the assignment is right up the alley of a former newshound like Tess. But it doesnt take long for her to discover deeper, darker secrets, and to realize that this situation is really more about whacking than hacking. Its just murder in Baltimore these days—and Tess Monaghan herself might be next on the list.

Author Biography:

Laura Lippman has been a reporter for 14 years, the last six as a feature writer at the Baltimore Sun. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.Photo by Jim Burger

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Editorial Reviews

Baltimore Sun
“Both entertaining and unexpectedly touching. More Please.”
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Defrocked journalist" turned private investigator Tess Monaghan (from Baltimore Blues) is posing as a reporter for the Baltimore Beacon-Light, aka the Blight, in order to look into the apparent suicide of hometown hero and tycoon "Wink" Wynkowski. Political and journalistic corruption surrounds plans for a new basketball stadium for which Wink was a major dealmaker. But Tess's personal life is also being drawn in to the case: her Uncle Spike is in a coma as a result of a mugging that may be related, leaving Tess the reluctant caretaker of his lovable, if smelly, greyhound. A denouement from left field will startle some readers, but it is a small price to pay for shrewd observation, on-target descriptions, believable characters and hilarious one-liners. Baltimore Blues showed promise after a faltering start, and here Lippman displays a far surer, more even, hand. (Oct.)
Library Journal

Tess Monaghan, a former reporter for a Baltimore newspaper, is working as an investigator for a city lawyer, hoping to get her professional license as a PI. Business magnate Wink Wynkowski is trying to bring professional basketball to Baltimore. The editors of the local Baltimore Beacon-Lightnewspaper decide not to run a story about Wink because of his grimy past and his current financial troubles. They don't want the distasteful details of his past to jeopardize the chances of getting a basketball team, but someone without authorization hacks into the newspaper's computer, and the story runs anyway. Almost simultaneously, Wink is found dead in his car, an apparent suicide. Tess is hired by the paper to investigate the article and Wink's death. Rosita Ruiz, an unscrupulous reporter for the Beacon-Light, has been known to fabricate stories to suit her own agenda. After being fired, she is also found dead. Another suicide? Tess doesn't think so and sets out to prove her assumptions. Best-selling author Lippman's writing style here seems random and inconsistent, though the plot holds some interest. Read by Deborah Hazlett, this mildly entertaining mystery, first published in paperback in 1997, won the Edgar and Shamus awards. It is being reissued this December in hardcover. Purchase upon request or for libraries collecting Lippman's works.
—Carol Stern

Baltimore Sun
“Both entertaining and unexpectedly touching. More Please.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062070760
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/29/2011
  • Series: Tess Monaghan Series , #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 399,102
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Lippman

Since her debut in 1997, Laura Lippman has been heralded for her thoughtful, timely crime novels set in her beloved hometown of Baltimore. She is the author of twenty works of fiction, including eleven Tess Monaghan mysteries. She lives in Baltimore, New Orleans, and New York City with her family.

Biography

Laura Lippman was a reporter for 20 years, including 12 years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about "accidental PI" Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe, and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor's Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association.

Ms. Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., Ms. Lippman attended Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her other newspaper jobs included the Waco Tribune-Herald and the San Antonio Light.

Ms. Lippman returned to Baltimore in 1989 and has lived there since.

Biography from author's website.

Good To Know

In our interview, Lippman shared some fun and fascinating facts about herself:

"I can do an imitation of Ethel Merman singing ‘Satisfaction.'"

"I'm not a Baltimore native -- I arrived here about six years too late for that. But I love the fact that I've convinced the world that I am."

"Like my character, Tess Monaghan, I used to row. Unlike her, I was very, very bad at it."

"I've written eight books in my series -- one not yet published -- and a stand-alone crime novel, but my subject is always, on some level, Baltimore.

It's a problem-place, neither northern nor southern, somewhat addicted to nostalgia, yet amnesiac about the more dicey parts of its past. I used an epigraph from H. L. Mencken in one of my books: ‘A Baltimorean is not merely John Doe, an isolated individual of Homo sapiens, like every other John Doe. He is a John Doe of a certain place -- of Baltimore, of a definite home in Baltimore.' I am a person of a certain place, and that place happens to be Baltimore."

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    1. Hometown:
      Baltimore, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 31, 1959
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.S., Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, 1981

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Nothing wet was falling out of the sky. No snow, no ice, no hail, no rain changing to sleet, no sleet changing to rain. And that was reason enough, Tess Monaghan decided, to feel celebratory. She would walk home from work instead of taking her usual bus, maybe stop at Bertha's and squinch up her nose at the tourists eating mussels, or nurse something warm and alcoholic at Henniger's. A March Monday night in Baltimore would never be Mardi Gras, or even Lundi Gras, but it could have its moments, for savvy natives inclined to seek them out. Tess was inclined. For the first time in more than two years, she had a full-time job and a full-time boyfriend. Her life might not have the partyall-the-time euphoria of a beer commercial, but it was definitely edging into International Coffee territory.

The first few blocks of her walk home were deserted. Downtown tended to empty out early. But as Tess approached the Inner Harbor, she suddenly found herself in the thick of a jazzed-up, happy crowd. Were those klieg lights up ahead? Tess might have left newspaper reporting behind, but her instincts could still be juiced. Besides, she had caught a whiff of food-hot dogs, popcorn pretzels, something sweet and scorched. Cotton candy, one of those seductive foods that smelled so much better than it tasted.

"It's all free, hon," a vendor said, holding out a hot dog slathered with mustard and relish. "Courtesy of the Keys."

Tess had no idea what he was talking about, but she took the hot dog anyway.

What would draw so many people to the harbor on a usually dead Monday evening, she wondered, finishing off the free dog in three bites. Businessmentypes, coming from work. Young men in athletic gear and polished-looking women in gabardine raincoats, high heels striking sidewalks only recently liberated from the last ice storm. Then there were the suburban moms, in leggings, oversize sweaters, and fluffy jackets, holding tight to the hands of small children, who held even tighter to small black-and-violet flags.

Carried along by the crowd and its feverish anticipation, Tess found herself at the small outdoor amphitheater between Harborplace's two pavilions. Hundreds of people were already there, massed in front of the small stage. A man with a bullhorn, a local television anchor, was leading a chant. It took Tess a moment to understand the bluffed, electronically amplified words.

"Slam dunk! Jam one! Slam dunk! Jam one!"

Other men filed out, a ragtag basketball team in blackand-violet warm-up outfits. Some wore shorts, their legs all purple gooseflesh in the brisk evening. Who would be crazy enough to come out like that on a night like this? Tess recognized the governor. That figured; he had never met a costume he didn't like. But the mayor, not known for his sense of whimsy, was there as well in a black warm-up suit, his trademark Kente cloth tie peeking over the zipper. Tess spotted another television type, two state senators, and a few pituitary cases from the old Baltimore Bullets, now the Washington Wizards, renamed in deference to that city's homicide rate. Surprisingly, the name change hadn't done much to quell the capital's violence.

"Slam dunk! Jam one! Slam dunk! Jam one!"

Beneath the crowd's chant, Tess picked out a tinny recording, the city's onetime public service jingle, which had encouraged people to keep the streets clean by playing "trash ball." She remembered it vaguely. The city's orange-and-white wastebaskets had been decorated with slogans such as Jam One! or Dunk One! Then they'd ended the campaign and collectors of Baltimorebilia had stolen the trash cans before they could be taken off the streets and repainted.

Another man limped out on stage, an aging athlete whose cane gave his garish warm-up suit a strangely aristocratic look. "Toooooooooooch. Toooooooooooch," men yodeled and a few women actually screamed when he acknowledged the cheer with a thumb's-up. Yes, Paul Tucci still had his Loyola boy good looks and the build of the star athlete he had once been, although he was fleshier since his much-publicized knee replacement surgery earlier in the winter. Tess suspected the women were swooning not for the Tucci physique, but for the Tucci fortune, which had started in olive oil, then oozed into virtually every aspect of Baltimore life, from food importing to waste disposal. "The Tuccis get you coming and going, it was commonly said.

The music on the P.A. system changed to the sprightly, whistling version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" associated with the Harlem Globetrotters. The governor, inexpertly dribbling a basketball, broke from the group, jigged forward, then passed the ball to the mayor, throwing it over his head. They had never worked together very well. The mayor recovered nicely, retrieving the ball and passing it beneath his legs to a state delegate with a quite new, quite bad hair transplant. The crowd roared its approval. For the pass or the plugs? Tess wondered. Tucci caught the ball and spun it on the tip of his cane, prompting a few more female screams. Then the real basketball players came forward, upstaging the pols with their perfunctorily perfect passes and moves.

After a few minutes, the television anchor-At least he's not dumb enough to come out here bare-legged, Tess noted-seized the floor again.

"Hellooooo, Baltimore." The crowd caroled the greeting back. "As you know, the city has been without basketball since 1972 and has only recently seen the return of football...

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 48 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 48 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Quite an improvement from her first book!

    After my disappointment with Lippman's first book, "Baltimore Blues," I kept my hopes high for this book, hearing that her work had improved after her first release. I very much enjoyed the Tess Monaghan in this book. Smarter, more established with a firmer hold on her life, she transforms from the awkward, immature woman from "Baltimore Blues" and emerges into a figure many can admire. "Baltimore Blues" Tess was dangerously close to becoming the Stephanie Plum character from Janet Evanovich's books that I despise. I was extremely pleased and relieved Tess managed to grow up.

    As for this book, "Charm City," the plot was a little confusing. It was a little hard for me to understand how Sterling tied into the beginning and how Tess managed to tie all the evidence together. Her methods to acquire information were at times hard to believe, like when she showed up at the widow Wink's home with a gold bracelet after the media had been hounding her for days. Honestly, what woman would let a stranger into her home and pour her soul out about her private life? Maybe it's just me. Also, in the end (SPOILER ALERT) it was discovered that the culprit's fingerprints were on the car door. Why didn't anyone think to look that up in the beginning, when the crime was committed? Did I miss that? There was no mention of dusting for fingerprints in the first place.

    Aside from the few holes I found in the story, Lippman has an enormous talent for writing. I admired her sentence structuring and her descriptions. She manages to describe in full detail without boring me or going over the top. I look forward to reading more of her books.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

    Great!

    I really liked this book! It is an easy read and very suspenseful. I really enjpy the characters!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2000

    For lovers of local color

    Having read two of Lippman's mysteries, I'd classify the plots as solid and competent, interesting but not engrossing. The books excel at describing Baltimore. Lippman's writing about the city is wonderfully vivid and, more than most, chronicles not only the buildings, but the people and I think would bring the city to life even for those who aren't familiar with it. In this respect, I think that Lippman is much better than Anne Tyler. The main problem with the book, unfortunately, is the heroine who is the most implausible private eye I've ever encountered. Miss Marple would eat her for lunch. Tess Monaghan is a very immature 29-year old who is so diffident that it is hard to fathom why her friends have decided that she should go into detective work, which requires energy, boldness and is potentially dangerous. And make no mistake, her friends run her life for her; she doesn't seem to have any ideas of her own. She's like a high-school kid who follows her friends blindly whatever they do, but bickers idiotically with her parents. This doesn't seem to be the result of losing her only job after the newspaper she worked for folded. She only took that job because one of her friends was a reporter, and when she didn't get a job with the surviving paper, she didn't know what to do. She reminds me of the gooey black mud that coats the bottom of some part of the Bay and it's tributaries: a passive nuisance. After doing a respectable job on her first case, Tess strikes out completely on her second, surviving only because a friend who is considerably faster on the uptake comes to her rescue. Somehow, even as Tess goes about her detecting, what she is shown as doing just doesn't mesh with how she is shown as thinking. Lippman throws in the occasional Good Deed to make her heroine seem more admirable, but it seems more like a formulaic plot contrivance (the detective is supposed to administer unofficial justice) than a natural outcome of Tess' personality. Tess strikes me as a generally charmless character; I suppose that's why Lippmen gives her a dog in the second book. I often don't find hard-boiled detectives likeable, but as long as I respect them and the stories are good, I don't need to. (Tess is more like half-baked.) A certain sour pettiness goes with the genre. The detective observes all things great and small with an acerbic carping that presumably is intended to show a superior discerning sensibility but in Tess it's more like tiresome querulousness. For example, Tess' mother has a fondness for carefully developed monochromatic schemes that is (for some unexplained reason) a great trial to her daughter. I think that it shows that she is a woman with an artistic streak and a dreary daughter who should have gotten past adolescent surliness a long time ago. It's almost the only character development Judith Weinstein Monaghan gets. Like so many authors, Lippman has simply plugged in the stock character of Meddling Mom. Tess' aunts and uncles, on the other hand are charming and vividly drawn and supply the character interest. So I'd say that, presuming this is your type of mystery, or you like books with a strong sense of place, this is a good bet when you're looking for something to read. If character is important to you, or you only like to read this sub-genre is it's really good, I'd look for something else.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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