In A Strange City Mass Market Paperback – Sep 12 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
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. (Sept. 11)Forecast: With national print advertising, a 15-city NPR campaign and a six-city author tour, this novel will be well positioned to climb the genre bestseller charts.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Lippman's second Tess Monaghan novel is a perfectly good mystery, but even more, it's an homage to the city of Baltimore. As seen through the eyes of PI Monaghan, the city is celebrated on almost every page, but the setting provides more than just ambience. The plot itself hinges on an obscure bit of Baltimore's literary history involving an anonymous figure who places a glass of brandy and a rose on Edgar Allan Poe's grave every January in honor of the writer's birthday. No one wants to unmask the identity of the "Poe Toaster" for fear of ending the beloved tradition. When a client entices Tess and her boyfriend, Crowe, to watch the ritual, Tess is surprised to find two toasters--and then even more surprised to witness the murder of one of them. The case of the faux toaster draws Tess into a complex mystery that just may hinge on who is leaving her notes quoting Poe. Readers won't be able to resist Tess, who, like one of Baltimore's famous stone crabs, sports a tough shell that hides a sweet center. Jenny McLarin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
PI Tess Monaghan turns down a would-be client who wants her to unmask the "Poe Toaster," a mysterious person who visits Edgar Allan Poe's gravesite each year with three roses and half a bottle of cognac. Although she refuses to take the case, Tess can't help being curious. On the anniversary of Poe's death, Tess expects to stand at a distance and see a strange caped individual visit the cold Baltimore grave site. But she sees two caped figures. One dies from a bullet, the other escapes. Then things get really creepy when Tess receives cryptic notes at her door...along with three roses and a half bottle of cognac.
'In a Strange City' is a pleasure to read because it works on so many levels. Lippman writes a very smart tale with wonderful descriptions of Baltimore and its people, but that's only part of what makes the book work. She not only knows how to write great characters, she also pens believable dialogue. Her examination of Poe devotees and collectors is nothing short of fascinating. Many excellent mystery writers are capable of presenting readers with an entertaining, intriguing story, but Lippman takes it a step further. When I closed the book, I knew I had finished a great story, but I also knew that I was going to be forced to examine the possessions I cherish and ask myself how far I would go to protect them?
A very satisfying read - 310 pages
The case becomes complicated. There are people trying to identify and find the visitor for personal agendas. There are charges that the murder was a hate crime - the victim identified as a ... waiter. Tess is drawn into the case, willing or not, because other players think she may have information. Mysterious notes appear, along with roses or rose petals, from an unknown individual attempting to enlist her aid. There are questions about thefts of rare books and memorabilia. And there is collateral damage.
Along the way there are tidbits of information about Baltimore, and about Edgar Allan Poe including a pertinent poem ("From childhood's hour I have not been As others were; I have not seen As others saw; I could not bring My passions from a common spring." - from Poe's "Alone"). The case gradually unfolds as information develops about various players. Some people become unlikely allies, and relationships between people are revealed as the case is solved. Tess becomes the guardian of another dog, a friendly doberman named Miata.Read more ›
In A Strange City opens up with a scene that harkens back to a Hammett or Chandler novel: a grotesquely overweight man hires Monaghan to follow a man to recover a necklace he says was stolen from him. Seems pretty straightforward, except for the fact that the man he wants her to follow is a local Baltimore legend known as the "Poe Visitor", a cloaked figure who lays a tribute of roses and cognac at the grave of Edgar Allen Poe at the anniversary of his death.
Of course things quickly go haywire as Monaghan is thrust into a murky plot which includes fanatical bibliofiles, an antagonistic homicide detective and a series of assaults and burglaries that seem to target gay men. It's a murky stew, but it's actually quite an original plot and Lippman's prose makes it seem perfectly clear and convincing.
The best part of this series (indeed, the best part of all detective fiction) is the sense of place and setting which brings the city of Baltimore true to life. The only thing I knew about Baltimore came from episodes of "Homicide:Life on the Streets"("The Best Damn Show on TV"). But reading this series makes me seem like I've been living there for years.
I gave this book less than five stars (Four and a half, really, but I can't give half ratings) because I spotted the killer fairly easily. But that really doesn't take from the book. After all, the best part of detective fiction is not who killed who. It's the journey that counts.
This year, Tess is among those waiting for a glimpse of the mysterious "Poe Visitor." She is surprised to see not one but two cloaked men carrying the appropriate tributes; she is even more surprised to see one murdered as the other escapes into the semi-darkness.
Bobby Hilliard, a 28-year-old gay waiter is the victim. The senseless beating of another gay man some days earlier and Hilliard's death arouse the local gay and lesbian rights group headed by Tess's former friend attorney Cecelia Cesnik. The group insists that a maniacal homophobe is running amok.
Tess soon finds herself enmeshed in a multi-layered swirl of events pulling her in opposite directions. Hammered on by the chief detective who thinks she knows more than she's telling, our heroine is also stalked by an unknown person who leaves cognac and three red roses by her front door.
There's more than mere murder here as Tess suspects a complicated scheme involving priceless antiques and other black marketables begins to emerge.
Ms. Lippman has laced her latest thriller with strains of greed and homophobia, and included such Poe-isms as a victim buried alive and a ticking clock. It makes for a unique and compelling read.
- Gail Cooke
Most recent customer reviews
SOOOOO good, I can't wait until October. If Lippman could put out a book weekly, I still wouldn't be able to wait for the next installment of Tess Monaghan's adventures! Read morePublished on July 27 2002 by Mary-Elissa Tomecek
After long awaiting Laura Lippman's next book in the Tess series, I was slightly disappointed with IN A STRANGE CITY. Read morePublished on March 31 2002
What a sweet combination of Maryland moments, wacky bibliophiles and morose, mysterious Poe! Lara Lippman's settings are wonderful; how I long to wander the streets with Tess,... Read morePublished on Dec 6 2001 by go2yourlibrary
A multiple award winner, Laura Lippman continues to show us her best in "In a Strange City". Read morePublished on Oct. 15 2001 by Maria Y. Lima
Just when one thinks that Laura Lippman has hit her peak (as in "Sugar House"), she surprises the reader by going up a couple of more notches and she started out on a... Read morePublished on Sept. 11 2001 by Doris Ann Norris
As a mystery writer with my debut novel in its initial release, I genuinely enjoyed Laura Lippman's toast to our genre's founder, Edgar Allan Poe. Read morePublished on Sept. 10 2001 by Kent Braithwaite
From the start Laura Lippman tries to trip up her readers by flicking a little Kennedy dust in their eyes. Read morePublished on Sept. 7 2001 by John O. Bronson