In a Strange City (Tess Monaghan Series #6)

In a Strange City (Tess Monaghan Series #6)

by Laura Lippman

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Overview

In a Strange City (Tess Monaghan Series #6) by Laura Lippman

New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan must put her PI skills to the ultimate test when she falls into the crosshairs of a psychopath who knows everything about her.

For the past fifty years on the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe, a person wearing a cloak has placed three roses and a half bottle of cognac on the writer’s gravesite. PI Tess Monaghan has never witnessed the event. But when John P. Kennedy, an eccentric antiques dealer, asks her to uncover the identity of the caped visitor, who he believes has duped him with the sale of an inauthentic antique, Tess decides to hold vigil on the night the cloaked stranger is expected to make an appearance. But the custom takes on a bizarre, fatal twist when two cloaked figures arrive. The imitator leaves his tribute and then makes his escape…after shooting the first visitor. 

Warning bells tell Tess to steer clear of this case. But when roses and cognac appear on her doorstep, Tess’s curiosity is piqued. She soon discovers that John P. Kennedy has vanished into thin air and much of what he told her was questionable. Then the identity of the shooting victim comes to light, and all clues seem to point to the possibility he was the target of a hate crime. But Tess isn’t convinced. What was his connection to the decades-long Edgar Allan Poe tradition and to the killer? When more cryptic clues are left at her home, Tess realizes that someone is watching her every move...someone who’s bent on killing again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061807442
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Series: Tess Monaghan Series , #6
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 56,391
File size: 953 KB

About the Author

Since LAURA LIPPMAN’s debut, she has won multiple awards and critical acclaim for provocative, timely crime novels set in her beloved hometown of Baltimore. Laura has been nominated for more than fifty awards for crime fiction and won almost twenty, including the Edgar. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages. Now a perennial New York Times bestselling author, she lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her family.

Hometown:

Baltimore, Maryland

Date of Birth:

January 31, 1959

Place of Birth:

Atlanta, Georgia

Education:

B.S., Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, 1981

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

His card said he specialized in porcelain, but Tess Monaghan couldn't help thinking of her prospective client as the Porcine One. He had a round belly and that all-over pink look, heightened by a rashlike red on his cheeks, a souvenir of the cold day. His legs were so short that Tess felt ungracious for not owning a footstool, which would have kept them from swinging, childlike, above the floor. The legs ended in tiny feet encased in what must be the world's smallest -- and shiniest -- black wing tips. These had clicked across her wooden floor like little hooves. And now, after thirty minutes in this man's company, Tess was beginning to feel as crotchety and inhospitable as the troll beneath the bridge.

But that had been a story about a goat, she reminded herself. She was mixing her fairy-tale metaphors. He seemed to be a nice man, if a garrulous one. Let him huff and puff.

"I don't have a shop, not really," he was saying. "I did once, but I find I can do as much business through my old contacts. And the Internet, of course. A good scout doesn't need a shop."

"Of course."

He had been chatting about Fiestaware and Depression glass since he arrived. It wasn't clear if he even knew he was in a private detective's office, That was okay. She had nothing else to occupy her time on a January afternoon.

"Those auction sites are really for-amateurs-only, if you know what I mean. That's where I go when I want to unload something that doesn't have any real value but which people might get emotional about. For example, let's say I wasgoing to try to sell a Fiestaware gravy boat in teal, which is a very rare color. I'd have to set the reserve so high that people would get all outraged and think I was trying to cheat them. But put a Lost in Space lunch box out there, and they just go crazy, even if it's dented and the original thermos is missing."

Tess glanced at her notes, where so far she had written the man's name, J.P Kennedy/antique scout, and not much else. She added gravy boat/teal and Lost in Space -- no thermos.

"Now, you have some nice things," the Porcine One said suddenly. "This Planter's Peanut jar and the Berger cookie jar. I could get you good money for these. And the clock. Especially the clock."

He stared almost hungrily at the Time for a Haircut clock that had once hung in a Woodlawn barbershop. Tess wondered if he would be similarly impressed by the neon sign in her dining room at home, which said "Human Hair." That had come from a beauty supply shop, one where the demand for human hair was no longer so great as to require solicitation.

"Look, Mr." -- she glanced covertly at her desk calendar, having blanked on his name -- "Kennedy --"

"Call me John. No relation." He giggled; there was no other word for it. A cheerleader or a sorority girl would have been embarrassed to emit such a coy little squeal. "I'm JPK, I guess you could say. That's why I sometimes use the full name, John Pendleton Kennedy, to avoid confusion, but it only seems to add confusion. You may call me John."

"Mr. Kennedy," she repeated. Being on a first-name basis was highly overrated, in Tess's opinion. "I was under the impression you were interested in hiring me, not scouting my possessions for a quick buck."

"Oh, I am, I am. Interested in hiring you." But he was looking at her Planter's jar now, where she stored her business-related receipts until she had time to file them. He even held out a pudgy pink hand, as if to stroke the jar's peanut curves. On the sofa across the room, Tess's greyhound, Esskay, raised her head, ears pointed straight up. The Porcine One's hand was dangerously close to the Berger cookie jar, which held Esskay's favorite treats.

"People rush so, these days," Mr. Kennedy said. Yet he spoke as quickly as anyone Tess had ever known, his words tumbling nervously over each other. "No pleasantries, no chitchat. I suppose we'll stop saying 'How are you?' before long. I can't remember the last time someone said 'Bless you' or even 'Gesundheit' after a sneeze. Again, I blame the Internet. It creates an illusion of speed. And E-mail. Don't get me started on E-mail."

Get him started? All Tess wanted to figure out was how to get him to stop.

"It's a hard time to be an honest man," he said, then looked surprised, as if caught off guard by his own non sequitur. A good sign, Tess thought. He had inadvertently veered closer to the subject of why he was here.

"How so?"

"Dealers such as myself, we are expected to go to great lengths to make sure the items we buy and sell are legitimate. Yet there is little protection afforded us by the law when we are duped. When I buy something, I do everything I can to ensure I'm dealing with someone reputable. Then it turns up on some hot sheet and I'm expected to give it back, with no recompense for my time and money."

Tess had no idea what he was talking about. "You bought something that was stolen and you had to give it back?"

"Something like that." He folded his little hands across his round belly, settling into his chair as if Tess were a dentist, the truth an infected molar she was preparing to extract. No, he was more like a patient in therapy, one who enjoyed the endlessly narcissistic process of paying someone to figure out why he did what he did.

But she...

In a Strange City. Copyright © by Laura Lippman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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In a Strange City (Tess Monaghan Series #6) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
From the publisher: For the past fifty years on the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe, a person wearing a cloak has placed three roses and a half bottle of cognac on the writer’s gravesite. PI Tess Monaghan has never witnessed the event. But when John P. Kennedy, an eccentric antiques dealer, asks her to uncover the identity of the caped visitor, who he believes has duped him with the sale of an inauthentic antique, Tess decides to hold vigil on the night the cloaked stranger is expected to make an appearance. But the custom takes on a bizarre, fatal twist when two cloaked figures arrive. The imitator leaves his tribute and then makes his escape…after shooting the first visitor. Warning bells tell Tess to steer clear of this case. But when roses and cognac appear on her doorstep, Tess’s curiosity is piqued. She soon discovers that John P. Kennedy has vanished into thin air and much of what he told her was questionable. Then the identity of the shooting victim comes to light, and all clues seem to point to the possibility he was the target of a hate crime. But Tess isn’t convinced. What was his connection to the decades-long Edgar Allan Poe tradition and to the killer? When more cryptic clues are left at her home, Tess realizes that someone is watching her every move...someone who’s bent on killing again. Originally published in hardcover in 2001, I just caught up with this one, the 6th of what is now 12 in the Tess Monaghan series. Tess is a former reporter and now private investigator in her early thirties. The Strange City of the title is Baltimore, and the reader learns many fascinating things, if some a bit strange, about the city, its environs, and its denizens. I was sufficiently intrigued about the history of “The Poe Toaster” that I checked it out on Wikipedia, and it a fascinating tale of over seven decades, apparently ending in 2009. (It is stated that it is “a beautiful tradition the entire city loves.”) The author certainly piques the reader’s interest in its history, and the murder mystery here spikes that interest all the more. I didn’t know much of Poe (said to have “invented the detective story”) other than the books by him I’d read, like almost every mystery book lover. I apparently had that in common with Tess, here “learning a little more of his work, about which she was woefully ignorant, and his life, about which she knew even less,” but the minutiae served up here is fascinating, starting with a quote even before the first page: “Lo! Death has reared himself a throne in a strange city, lying alone…” Tess, with help from her boyfriend, Crow, and their greyhound, Esskay, is assisted in their investigation by Daniel Clary, a young librarian who is a self-confessed “Poe buff” and a fascinating character, as are all of Ms. Lippman’s creations, notably Fuzzy Iglehart and Gretchen O’Brien, fellow p.i., with homophobia raising its ugly head along the way. I loved the writing, e.g., when she is holding a suspect at gunpoint, she muses that she wished “her experience at bluffing was based on more than card games with her family.” I must admit that by the run-up to the end of the tale, very suspenseful as it is, I found myself somewhat confused in trying to keep the various suspects straight in my head, with numerous characters having been introduced along the way. Despite that reservation, the novel is recommended.
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I love Tess Monaghan and the PI she has become, but, you want to yell "don't go in there" ! But Laura Lippman still writes a good mystery with a good story.
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