Sunday, May 18, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Another Thing to Fall by Laura LippmanBuy from Amazon.com

Another Thing to Fall by
A Tess Monaghan Mystery

William Morrow (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-06-112887-2 (0061128872)
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-112887-5 (9780061128875)
Publication Date: March 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): The California dream weavers have invaded Charm City with their cameras, their stars, and their controversy. . . .

When private investigator Tess Monaghan literally runs into the crew of the fledgling TV series Mann of Steel while sculling, she expects sharp words and evil looks, not an assignment. But the company has been plagued by a series of disturbing incidents since its arrival on location in Baltimore: bad press, union threats, and small, costly on-set "accidents" that have wreaked havoc with its shooting schedule. As a result, Mann's creator, Flip Tumulty, the son of a Hollywood legend, is worried for the safety of his young female lead, Selene Waites, and asks Tess to serve as her bodyguard/babysitter. Tumulty's concern may be well founded. Not long ago a Baltimore man was discovered dead in his own home, surrounded by photos of the beautiful, difficult superstar-in-the-making.

In the past, Tess has had enough trouble guarding her own body. Keeping a spoiled movie princess under wraps may be more than she can handle—even with the help of Tess's icily unflappable friend Whitney—since Selene is not as naive as everyone seems to think, and far more devious than she initially appears to be. This is not Tess's world. And these are not her kind of people, with their vanities, their self-serving agendas and invented personas, and their remarkably skewed visions of reality—from the series' aging, shallow, former pretty-boy leading man to its resentful, always-on-the-make cowriter to the officious young assistant who may be too hungry for her own good.

But the fish-out-of-water P.I. is abruptly pulled back in by an occurrence she's all too familiar with—murder. Suddenly the wall of secrets around Mann of Steel is in danger of toppling, leaving shattered dreams, careers, and lives scattered among the ruins—a catastrophe that threatens the people Tess cares about . . . and the city she loves.

Review: Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan is hired to look after the temperamental star of a television show being filmed locally in Another Thing to Fall, the tenth mystery in this series by Laura Lippman.

When Tess is initially offered the job of guarding Selene Waites, the young (and definitely under drinking age) star of Mann of Steel, she hesitates. It's not an assignment she's particularly interested in. But it pays well and gives her the opportunity to negotiate a position on the film crew for her boyfriend's sometime ward, Lloyd, something she probably wants more than her fee. Though there have been a series of incidents on the set, they seem more annoying than threatening to Tess. Until one of the production staff is murdered at which point Tess shifts into investigative mode. What motive could one have for wanting the production shut down, someone who would be willing to kill to get it done?

If just one word could be used to describe Laura Lippman's books in this series, it would be "entertaining". Another Thing to Fall is no exception. Tess is a terrific character and the author incorporates the city of Baltimore so well into these books that it becomes as central to story as any other character.

The weakness here is the plot itself though ironically it doesn't significantly detract from the enjoyment of the book. Much of the time, Tess seems to be along for the ride, having not much to do and even less to test her investigative skills. The other prinicipal characters are arguably more interesting to read about, but, then again, the professional and personal lives of people in the television and movie industry provide a nearly endless stream of ideas for novels. To her credit, Lippman capitalizes on this here with some success. And it's worth mentioning the delightful Mrs. Blossom who provides some of the seriously funny moments in the book. The denouement to the mystery, however, is not unexpected and somewhat anticlimatic.

Another Thing to Fall is certainly entertaining and well worth reading, but equally certainly not among the best of the series.

Special thanks to HarperCollins for providing a copy of Another Thing to Fall for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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