New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan must put her PI skills to the ultimate test when she falls into the crosshairs of a psychopath who knows everything about her.
For the past fifty years on the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe, a person wearing a cloak has placed three roses and a half bottle of cognac on the writer’s gravesite. PI Tess Monaghan has never witnessed the event. But when John P. Kennedy, an eccentric antiques dealer, asks her to uncover the identity of the caped visitor, who he believes has duped him with the sale of an inauthentic antique, Tess decides to hold vigil on the night the cloaked stranger is expected to make an appearance. But the custom takes on a bizarre, fatal twist when two cloaked figures arrive. The imitator leaves his tribute and then makes his escape…after shooting the first visitor.
Warning bells tell Tess to steer clear of this case. But when roses and cognac appear on her doorstep, Tess’s curiosity is piqued. She soon discovers that John P. Kennedy has vanished into thin air and much of what he told her was questionable. Then the identity of the shooting victim comes to light, and all clues seem to point to the possibility he was the target of a hate crime. But Tess isn’t convinced. What was his connection to the decades-long Edgar Allan Poe tradition and to the killer? When more cryptic clues are left at her home, Tess realizes that someone is watching her every move...someone who’s bent on killing again.
Edgar, Shamus, Anthony and Agatha award winner Lippman (Charm City; Butchers Hill; The Sugar House) pays homage to the inventor of the mystery form in this masterly contemporary mystery, set in Baltimore and replete with her trademark dry, sardonic wit. Every January 19th, in honor of Edgar Allan Poe's birthday, a loyal clique waits in the small hours for the "Visitor," also known as the "Poe Toaster," to approach Poe's tomb. He wears a formal cape and carries three blood-red roses and a bottle of cognac as tribute. For some reason the press keep their distance, as do bystanders. This year, for the first time, PI Tess Monaghan is present, too, along with her boyfriend, Crow. Having been roped into attendance by a would-be client, Tess awaits the coming of the Visitor in the freezing winter night. Suddenly, two caped men with roses and cognac show up. A shot rings out one man lies dead, the other runs off. A deliciously complex story follows that brings Baltimore center stage and delves anew into the mysteries surrounding Poe himself. Tess finds her own life in danger, and becomes a primary player in a story she'd intended to view only from the periphery. The author offers a host of Poe-esque thrills, from multiple murders to a woman buried alive. In the denouement, the clock ticks rapidly while Tess matches wits with the killer in order to rescue the victim from her tomb before her air runs out. Lippman shows in this, her sixth novel, that she's indeed deserving of all the kudos she's received.