New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan must solve one of the most baffling murders in her PI career.
When Tess Monaghan agrees to talk to Ruthie Dembrow, she senses she’ll regret it. If there’s anything Tess has learned in her work both as a newspaper reporter and then as a PI, it’s to trust your instincts. Still, she can’t deny she’s intrigued when Ruthie asks her to investigate the fatal stabbing of her brother, Henry, while he was locked away for murdering a teenage runaway over a bottle of glue. Henry’s death at the hands of fellow convicts doesn’t surprise Tess, but what does is that he was convicted for murdering a “Jane Doe”—something that rarely happens in the judicial system.
No ID was found on the victim’s body, and her fingerprints didn’t match up to any in the national database. How could anyone escape all the identity nets of the modern world? Ruthie is convinced if she learns the identity of her brother’s victim, maybe she can also find out why he was killed.
Tess’s search takes her on a harrowing journey from Baltimore’s exclusive Inner Harbor to the seedy neighborhood of Locust Point. But it’s the shocking discovery of the runaway’s true identity that turns Tess’s hunt deadly. Suddenly, her supposedly solved murder case keeps turning up newer, fresher corpses and scarier versions of the Sugar House—places that look so sweet and safe, but only from the outside.
Glue-sniffing teen Henry Dembrow goes to prison after confessing to killing a young Jane Doe found with a small rubber hose tied in a bow around her neck. A month later he, too, is dead. Coincidence? Ruthie Dembrow, Henry's sister, has her doubts and asks former Baltimore reporter Tess Monaghan, the heroine of this first (and first-rate) hardcover in a justly acclaimed series, to investigate. Tess agrees only because her father, Patrick, says he owes Ruthie one. Going over the facts of the crime, Tess realizes that she needs to identify the victim and to learn how the victim came to know her alleged killer. On the home front, Patrick's disapproval of her current love, Crow, strains their relationship. Edgar and Agatha winner Lippman (Charm City; In Big Trouble), a feature writer for the Baltimore Sun, really knows her town. She takes Tess far from the tourist stops into crumbling, neglected parts of the historic port city and beyond. Annapolis, a questionable clinic on the Eastern Shore and Philadelphia all figure in Tess's struggle to uncover the connections between a sordid killing and the pursuit of wealth and power in the state capital. As she digs deeper with assists from her wealthy pal, Whitney, major players begin to squirm and lives and reputations are in danger, including her own. Far from perfect, Tess finds she must carefully consider the compromises others have made for good or ill while not straying too far from her own principles. Nobody gets away clean, but some scores are settled, which at times has to be enough.