RogerBW's Blog

The Girl in the Green Raincoat, Laura Lippman 23 September 2014

Novella; eleventh in Lippman's contemporary mystery series about Tess Monaghan, private investigator in Baltimore. Restricted to bed thanks to difficulties with her pregnancy, Tess passes the time watching people in the park outside, particularly a young woman in a green coat (with a greyhound in a matching one). One day, the greyhound passes by on its own…

This book is an interesting example of what a series entry can be. Significant characters are introduced and described, all right, but without the weight of the ten previous books behind them they would have much less impact. This definitely isn't the place to start with this series, but if you have read the others (which I did in 2010) it's a pleasing capstone to what's gone before.

Similarly, Lippman grew up and lives in Baltimore – David Simon is her husband, and I discovered her writing while watching The Wire – but the love for the city and the sense of place that have always come over in the full-length books aren't as present here. This feels in some ways like a technical exercise, an explicit homage to Rear Window and The Daughter of Time.

The mystery plot develops along conventional lines: the woman's husband is curiously unconcerned about her absence, and investigation reveals that he's had two previous marriages, each of which ended with the wife's death. Although she doesn't have a paying client, Tess becomes suspicious, and enlists her friends and employees to do the legwork she can't. The resolution, while consistent with what's gone before, isn't really foreshadowed, so I can't recommend this to pure puzzle-story fans.

Even so, the primary purpose of this book is to give us a look at a well-liked protagonist going through life-changing events, and it does that well. It's not the end of the series, but it would have been a satisfying one if it had been.

To be followed by Hush in 2015.

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