The Sugar House (Tess Monaghan Series #5)

The Sugar House (Tess Monaghan Series #5)

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by Laura Lippman
     
 

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New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan must solve one of the most baffling murders in her PI career.

When Tess Monaghan agrees to talk to Ruthie Dembrow, she senses she’ll regret it. If there’s anything Tess has learned in her work both as a newspaper reporter and then as a PI, it’s to trust your

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan must solve one of the most baffling murders in her PI career.

When Tess Monaghan agrees to talk to Ruthie Dembrow, she senses she’ll regret it. If there’s anything Tess has learned in her work both as a newspaper reporter and then as a PI, it’s to trust your instincts. Still, she can’t deny she’s intrigued when Ruthie asks her to investigate the fatal stabbing of her brother, Henry, while he was locked away for murdering a teenage runaway over a bottle of glue. Henry’s death at the hands of fellow convicts doesn’t surprise Tess, but what does is that he was convicted for murdering a “Jane Doe”—something that rarely happens in the judicial system.

No ID was found on the victim’s body, and her fingerprints didn’t match up to any in the national database. How could anyone escape all the identity nets of the modern world? Ruthie is convinced if she learns the identity of her brother’s victim, maybe she can also find out why he was killed.

Tess’s search takes her on a harrowing journey from Baltimore’s exclusive Inner Harbor to the seedy neighborhood of Locust Point. 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 scarier versions of the Sugar House—places that look so sweet and safe, but only from the outside.

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Editorial Reviews

bn.com
Tess Monaghan gets pulled into an undercurrent of power and politics, when she investigates the murder of a teenage runaway.
Village Voice
Lippman is a master at baring both the soul and the body politic through the sneaky scrim of a page-turner.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Glue-sniffing teen Henry Dembrow goes to prison after confessing to killing a young Jane Doe found with a small rubber hose tied in a bow around her neck. A month later he, too, is dead. Coincidence? Ruthie Dembrow, Henry's sister, has her doubts and asks former Baltimore reporter Tess Monaghan, the heroine of this first (and first-rate) hardcover in a justly acclaimed series, to investigate. Tess agrees only because her father, Patrick, says he owes Ruthie one. Going over the facts of the crime, Tess realizes that she needs to identify the victim and to learn how the victim came to know her alleged killer. On the home front, Patrick's disapproval of her current love, Crow, strains their relationship. Edgar and Agatha winner Lippman (Charm City; In Big Trouble), a feature writer for the Baltimore Sun, really knows her town. She takes Tess far from the tourist stops into crumbling, neglected parts of the historic port city and beyond. Annapolis, a questionable clinic on the Eastern Shore and Philadelphia all figure in Tess's struggle to uncover the connections between a sordid killing and the pursuit of wealth and power in the state capital. As she digs deeper with assists from her wealthy pal, Whitney, major players begin to squirm and lives and reputations are in danger, including her own. Far from perfect, Tess finds she must carefully consider the compromises others have made for good or ill while not straying too far from her own principles. Nobody gets away clean, but some scores are settled, which at times has to be enough. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
For mystery fans who have read every book by Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, and Patricia Cornwell and who are longing for something new, Lippman's first hardcover (and her fifth novel) will be a refreshing surprise. Since her 1997 paperback debut (Baltimore Blues), Lippman's series about Tess Monaghan, the former reporter turned private investigator, has won all the major mystery awards. Her latest is sure to be nominated for more prizes. At the annual parish dinner celebrating Sour Beef Day, a Baltimore tradition, Tess's father asks her to help their waitress, Ruthie Dembrow; a year earlier her glue-sniffing brother, having confessed to a "Jane Doe" murder, was stabbed to death in prison. Convinced that the two killings are connected, Ruthie wants Tess to find the true identity of the girl buried in a pauper's grave. Tess's search leads her on a serpentine trail of political corruption and murder through Baltimore's varied and colorful neighborhoods. Indeed, Charm City is as memorable and sassy a character as Tess Monaghan herself. While the ending is a bit contrived (as in most mysteries), readers will enjoy Lippman's humor and keen eye for local color. For all collections.--Wilda Williams, "Library Journal" Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Internet Book Watch
In Baltimore, like many cities, it is not always one's abilities but whom you know that earns a person a job filled with perks and privileges. City native, private detective Tess Monaghan knows that first hand because her well connected father toils as a state liquor board inspector. That might bother some people, but not Tess who remains close to her father. Her father asks Tess to take on the case of Ruthie Dembrow, a woman who believes that the family of her sibling's victim assassinated him in jail. Tess starts by trying to identify the Jane Doe Henry killed since the deceased's fingerprints were not on file and no missing person's report matched. After intensive legwork, she concludes that the dead woman is Gwen Schiller, daughter of a wealthy, prominent family. However, the Schillers are unaware that Gwen is dead, making it more evident that her client's brother was killed in just another jailhouse incident. Tess still has some unanswered questions that will soon place her in the unenviable position of scrutinizing people she cares about and probably will hurt. Laura Lippman's love for Baltimore comes shining through The Sugar House as the author pays homage to her city. The fascinating mystery contains many red herrings and false trails that compel readers to continue the novel until the plot answers all the questions. This hardcover debut continues the standard of excellence that the author established with her first novel but the scope has widened to appeal to a mainstream audience.
—Internet Book Watch
Kirkus Reviews
If anyone knows about Baltimore politics, it's private detective Tess Weinstein Monaghan, who grew up riding her tricycle around the Stonewall Democratic Club. Still, she can't quite figure out why her dad, a 30-year veteran of the state liquor control board, wants her to investigate a Jane Doe case that was laid to rest over a year ago when confessed killer Henry Dembrow, a glue-sniffing delinquent from downscale Locust Point, was knifed to death after a month in prison. But Henry's sister Ruthie is clearly under Patrick Monaghan's patronage, so Tess agrees to make a brief search for the young victim's identity, which Ruthie believes will lead to the motive for Henry's murder. Starting with the slimmest of clues-the victim's decayed molars and a conversation she had with a sad, unattractive teenager named Sukey-Tess follows a trail that takes her from Locust Point to Maryland's Eastern Shore, through Philadelphia and, finally, to the wealthy D.C. suburb of Potomac, where she learns the tale of an attractive, privileged, but equally sad teenager. Tying Henry Dembrow's victim to his own murder brings Tess back home to Baltimore, where, in the midst of a hotly contested state senate campaign, she learns that politics are not only local, but lethal.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062070791
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/28/2012
Series:
Tess Monaghan Series, #5
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
137,931
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sour beef day dawned clear and mild in Baltimore.

Other cities have their spaghetti dinners and potluck at the local parish, bull roasts and barbecues, bake sales and fish fries. Baltimore had all those things, too, and more. But in the waning, decadent days of autumn, there came a time when sour beef was the only thing to eat, and Locust Point was the only place to eat it.

"I'm going to ask for an extra dumpling," Tess told her boyfriend, Crow, as his Volvo edged forward through the neighborhood's narrow streets. The unseasonably warm day had sharpened her appetite, but then a cold one would have done the same thing. Just about everything goosed Tess Monaghan's appetite. Good weather, bad weather. Good news, bad news. Love affairs, breakups. Peace, war. Day and night. She had eaten when she was depressed; happy now, she ate more. Then she worked out, so she could eat again.

But the primary reason she ate was because she was hungry, a feeling she never took for granted.

"You deserve an extra dumpling," Crow said. "You deserve whatever your heart desires. What do you want for Christmas, anyway?"

"Nothing, I keep telling you, absolutely nothing. I have everything I want." She squeezed his knee. "Although if I could have anything, it would be one of those neon signs you see at beauty supply stores, the ones that say 'Human Hair.' "

Crow started to slide the car into a mirage of a space, only to realize the gap was really an alleyway. He sighed philosophically. "Locust Point feels like it's at the end of the world."

"Just the end of Baltimore."

"Isn't that the same thing?" He was teasing her, in away that only he could. There was no bitter under Crow's sweet, no meaness lurking in his narrow face. When they had first known each other, that almost-pretty face had been lost under a head full of purple dreads. Shorn now, and back to his natural black, Crow was a guileless little beacon, beaming his feelings out into the world. She liked that in a man.

Unless the man was her father, standing on the church steps, frowning at his watch. Her Uncle Spike was next to him, chewing placidly on a cigar. Uncle Spike didn't take time so seriously.

"Great, we're late, and we'll never find a parking space this close. Look, even the fire truck is illegally parked."

"Just for carry-out," said Crow, who couldn't shake his bad habit of thinking the best of everyone. "See, there the firefighters are now, with a stack of plastic containers. What does sour beef taste like, anyway?"

"Like sauerbraten, I guess. Not that I've ever had sauerbraten."

"I thought sour beef was sauerbraten."

"Yes, but-well, Baltimore, Crow." Funny how much could be explained with just those four words. Yes, but, well, Baltimore. "If we don't get in soon, there'll be a line. The dinner's late this year, because of a fire in the kitchen. Usually it's before Thanksgiving."

"Why don't I let you out here, and then come in when I find a place to park? Just save me a seat—and make sure it's next to you."

Tess leaned across the gearshift for a quick kiss. Crow grabbed her and gave her the sort of deep, passionate, openmouth probe suitable to sending a loved one behind prison walls, or into the French Foreign Legion. Since they had reunited this fall, he was living in the moment with characteristic fervor. Tess found it overwhelming, exhausting, and altogether glorious.

Although the glory faded a little when she surfaced for air and found her father's blue eyes focused on them in a hard, unapproving stare. Tess disentangled herself, slipped out of the car, and crossed the street, wishing she didn't blush so easily. It was the one thing she had in common with her father, one of those red-all-over redheads.

"You went all the way to Texas to get him?" Patrick Monaghan asked, not for the first time.

"She brings 'em back alive," Uncle Spike said around the butt-end of his cigar. His bald head gleamed in the weak winter sun, and his liver spots seemed to have multiplied since Tess last saw him, making his resemblance to a springer spaniel all the more pronounced. "Her and Frank Buck. They bring 'em back alive. He's a good kid, Pat—"

"Kid being the operative word," her father said.

"Just six years younger, Dad," said Tess, determined not to let anything mar this annual ritual. "If the sexes were reversed, you wouldn't think about it twice."

But the word sexes was a mistake, even in a neutral context. Her father winced at the associations it raised.

"Has he had any luck finding a job?" Uncle Spike asked.

"The state's hiring," her father put in. "'Your Uncle Donald says he could find something for him at the Department of Transportation. He's got a lot of pull now, since he was posted to the comptroller's office,"

Tess laughed. "Crow as a state employee? I can't quite picture that. Don't worry, he'll find something. He's part time at Aunt Kitty's bookstore through Christmas, playing a few gigs around town. But that's more for his own pleasure than the money."

"An out-of-work musician," her father mused. "Yeah, that's what I envisioned the day you were born, honey. It's what every father wants for his little girl, you know. Does he have a criminal record, too? That would just make my day."

Tess considered and rejected several replies. "Let's get inside, before the line gets too long."

A volunteer, resplendent in a green and red double-knit pants suit, took their money and pointed them to four places at a long cafeteria table in the farthest comer of the parish hall. Tess inhaled-deeply, happily, nostalgicially.

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What People are saying about this

Ridley Pearson
Laura Lippman is a terrific writer! As far as I'm concerned, she can't write fast enough.

Meet the Author

Since Laura Lippman's debut in 1997, she has been heralded for thoughtful, timely crime novels set in her beloved hometown of Baltimore. Now a perennial New York Times bestseller, she lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her family.

Brief Biography

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

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Sugar House (Tess Monaghan Series #5) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
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I enjoyed the book, it had twists and turn in the storyline Excellent beach read
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