Plot summary (from the publisher): Reporter-turned-p.i. Tess Monaghan loves every inch of her native Baltimore—-a quirky city where baseball reigns, and homicide seems to be the second most popular sport. Business tycoon “Wink” Wynkowski wants to change all of that by bringing pro-basketball back to town—-a laudable mission that’s greeted with widespread cheers . . . and a muckraking front page exposé of his past in the Baltimore Beacon-Light. The “Blight’s” surprised editors are sure they killed the piece. Instead, the piece kills Wynkowski, who’s discovered asphyxiated in his garage with his car’s engine running. Now the paper wants former newshound Tess to track down the rogue computer hacker whose prank took a human life. But there’s more than cyber-crime involved her-e—and Tess is about to discover firsthand that trying to stay alive in Charm City is murder these days.
Warning: MAJOR spoilers below!
- One of the things I disliked about the first entry in this series was how much time the author spent describing Tess’s rowing activities and various gym workouts. That stuff was blissfully absent in Charm City (save for a few brief references), which made the book much more bearable.
- I still like Lippman’s writing style. I think she gets the tone just right, and makes her prose interesting enough to be noticeably different (better) than other books in the genre without over-writing and taking too much attention away from the actual story.
- There was less of the sexually liberated aunt in this installment than in the previous one, which I considered to be a bonus. Characters like that are best in small doses, and the aunt definitely overstayed her welcome in the first volume.
- Is it weird that I thought “Charm City” was some kind of reference to jewelry? Click here for an example of what I mean. Who knew this is a nickname for Baltimore??
- I hated everything having to do with Crow. I have a thing against grown men with long hair, so every time Crow’s physical features were described, it was just a huge turn-off for me. I’m glad Tess broke up with him to pursue Jack Sterling, and I was thrilled that Crow didn’t take her back after Sterling turned out to be the killer. That would have been dumb.
- Why did Whitney and Tess have to fight? Why couldn’t they have had a healthy friendship that didn’t devolve into the usual catty competition over men, careers, and looks? Not ALL women are like that!
- Jack Sterling’s motive for murdering Wink seemed a bit thin. The crime they committed together as teenagers was sealed, so it seems to me Jack didn’t really have anything to worry about. I get that the NBA would have performed a thorough background check on Wink before letting him buy a franchise, but not even they have the power to unseal juvie records.
- The scene where Jack beat the shit out of Tess had me cringing. I hate even just reading about violence against women, so this was tough to take.
- The references to beepers and car phones really dated this book. Yikes, I didn’t realize it was written 16 years ago!
- I could have lived my whole life without knowing that there are people out there that buy retired racing greyhounds and let others hunt them down for a fee. I also did NOT need to hear about how the greyhounds’ ears were chopped off to make identification impossible. Good grief.
Charm City, the second entry in the Tess Monaghan mystery series, was a solid effort by the author. She didn’t really bring anything original to the table, and there weren’t any real “twists” to speak of in this novel, but Lippman executes the crime story formula fairly efficiently — and with enough doses of humor to keep the reader entertained throughout. I give this one 3 stars out of 5.