Friday, July 4, 2008

Another Thing To Fall

Laura Lippman
ISBN: 978-0-06-112887-5

Laura Lippman lives in, and writes about, Baltimore, Maryland, just across the Bay from me. I don't often get over there but there is a kind of appeal to reading a novel with a setting that is sort of familiar. Another Thing To Fall is the latest in her Tess Monaghan series of crime novels. Tess Monaghan may be the only fictional female private detective who rows a racing shell as a hobby. She is also a fictional graduate of Washington College, which is within walking distance from my house.

Another Thing To Fall
is not so much a whodunnit as a "What the heck are they doing?" story. There are several people who commit crimes ranging from vandalism to faking a kidnapping to, of course, murder. They all revolve around the filming of a silly sounding TV seriec called Mann of Steel. It's fairly clear, even before the crime is committed, who the perp is going to be, but hard to figure out why. The motives ov the various characters are revealed in the end and the book moves forward on a series of revelations about each of them.

Lippman uses the filming of a television show as the setting for her story. Baltimore has become known as the setting of gritty cop shows with The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Steets having long runs on the air. There is a new medical docudrama coming out called Hopkins, too. Baltimore really is a film industry town.

In the fictional show, Mann of Steel, the male lead is transported to the early 19th century by receiving a head injury and somehow is able to bring the female lead back to the 21st century with him. One of the themes of the novel is the difference between homage to earlier writing and theft of intellectual property, yet Lippman does not acknowledge the previous, and best known, example of time travel by head injury in Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court. This may be an oversight, or a very subtle irony, I'm not sure which.


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