No Good Deeds, by Laura Lippman

A good read. Lippman spins a complex tale featuring her PI, Tess Monaghan, and finishes it off with an ending that satisfies my need for resolution while leaving some threads intriguingly loose—hurry up with that next book!

At the same time, she plays a bit with the conventions of the mystery form. For example, Spenser may have Hawk, but Tess’s sidekick is a truly frightening preppie princess from Greenspring Valley. Hilarious. Also, in this book Lippman foregoes the now almost obligatory physical assault on the PI, substituting a form of attack that is more realistic and—for me—much scarier.

She keeps the pace brisk without sacrificing the characters and sense of place that make her books so interesting. Of course it helps that they are set in Baltimore. The places she talks about are places I frequent and (in most cases) have frequented since the days when the only Lippman I’d heard of was her father.

Why is it so much fun to read a book set in a place I know? A familiar setting helps bring the story to life, especially when (as in this book) the author mentions recognizable local events and people. Certainly it’s easier for me to visualise a scene in a coffeehouse where I’ve spent way too much time or a park where I’ve walked my dog.

Most of all, I find it immensely satisfying to have my own observations reinforced. Lippman, like Anne Tyler, like David Simon, like John Waters (hey, my mom said to say hi to yours), like Barry Levinson, portray the Baltimore I know. You may think some of their characters and stories are off-beat, but I’m telling you, it happens here.

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