This is the second book in Lippman's Tess Monaghan series. It was originally published in a mass market paperback. My eyes don't do well with mass market paperbacks anymore, so I'm happy to see that Lippman's early efforts are swimming against the tide and coming out in hardcover, years after their mass market releases. I have become a big fan of charm city's own murder mystery writer.
Writing a review of a mystery novel without spoiling the plot is always difficult. I will attempt to be very vague on the details and leave you with no idea what is going on.
Charm City features the first appearance of Esskay, the hungry greyhound. The dog's sudden appearance in Tess' life begins one thread in the story, a thread that involves greyhound racing, oddly enough, since there is no dog racing in Baltimore. The other thread involves the famous Beacon Light, the fictional newspaper, which Lippman points out in a disclaimer bears no resemblance to the Baltimore Sun, where she still worked in 1997, when the book was first published.
Crow, the younger hipper, musician boyfriend is already present. I am going to need to track down Tess story #1, Baltimore Blues to see where he actually comes from. There is a bit of difficulty between Tess and Crow which is unresolved at the end of the book, a great teaser for book #3, Butcher's Hill. From reading later Tess stories I know that Tess and Crow resolve their differences. A sign of a good mystery series is that the reader gets sucked in and starts to care about the lives and relationships of the stock characters. Lippman's Tess Monaghan books qualify on this count, big time, Hon.
Lippman's books meet the other two criteria, which I just made up, for a better than average mystery series. Local color: Lippman uses Baltimore and the rest of Maryland in a totally authentic, charming and attractive way. She makes gentle fun of the way Bawlmurruns speak. Real locations, real local food and real sounding local situations are all through the book(s). Most importantly, for mysteries, as opposed to mere crime novels, you won't figure out who did it until the very end. I'm not even going to tell you what they did, but of course, people are killed.