Five lives in the Baltimore area have been brutally destroyed over the past six years -- five unsolved homicides, seemingly unconnected except for the suspicion that each death was the result of domestic violence. In hot legal water -- and court-ordered therapy -- Tess Monaghan accepts an assignment with a local nonprofit organization, agreeing to review police documents on each case for inconsistencies and investigative blunders. But curiosity is leading the disgraced P.I. off the paper trail as she follows scant leads and intuitions into the most remote corners of Maryland -- where a psychopath can hide as easily in the fabric of a tiny fishing community as in the alleys and shadows of Charm City. Because a single common thread to five senseless murders is beginning to emerge with shocking clarity to tie the loose ends together into one bloody knot -- and the link is Tess Monaghan herself.
Favors for friends don't always turn out as expected, Tess Monagham learns in this harrowing encounter with obsession involving her own past. At the urging of best friend Whitney Talbot, Tess agrees to research how police inexperienced with murder cases handle domestic-violence-related investigations. Delving into the specifics of the five deaths she's been assigned, Tess begins to sense that a simple review of the facts won't suffice and that these aren't isolated incidents. Toll-facility cop Carl Dewitt, who found one victim's head on the roadway of a bridge and has become obsessed with that case, convinces her that his detailed knowledge and tenacity can help. The pair cover a lot of ground, from northern Maryland to Virginia, from Baltimore to the Eastern Shore to a remote island where simple beauty can't sustain young people and the aging population keeps its secrets. In the process, Tess confronts some old demons, including a figure who has watched for years as she rows alone in Baltimore Harbor. He knows all about her and is biding his time. Lippman narrows her circle, drawing predator and victim closer. She contrasts the methods of the privileged with the ways ordinary folk must cope and how disastrous the results can be when the monstrous invades their lives. 11-city author tour. FYI:Lippman has won Edgar, Agatha, Anthony and Shamus awards.