After her brilliant stand-alone thriller EVERY SECRET THING, Lippman returns to her series character, PI Tess Monaghan, and her home town of Baltimore.
Baltimore PI Tess Monaghan's Jewish roots (her mother was a Weinstein) show in her eighth outing (after The Last Place). Hired by Mark Rubin, a successful furrier and Orthodox Jew, to find his missing wife, Natalie, and their three children, Tess is driven to research the religion of her client, who's secretive, controlling, and apparently in denial. (For further assistance, Tess calls on Snoop Sisters, an online network of female PIs that even provides a retired librarian to tail her quarry.) Readers know early on that Natalie leaves for love, but only by the end are all the connections revealed among Mark, Natalie, her lover, and a former outreach program for Jews in Maryland prisons. Ex-journalist Lippman's knowledge of social services and public records serves her well here, as she spins another taut, masterly tale full of complex characters, including feisty Tess herself. Lippman lives in Baltimore. [See Mystery Prepub Alert, LJ 4/1/04.] Michele Leber, Arlington, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 30, 2005
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Excerpt from By a Spider's Thread by Laura Lippman
They were in one of the "I" states when Zeke told Isaac he had to ride in the trunk for a little while. Zeke announced this new plan in what Isaac thought of as his fakey voice, big and hollow, with too much air in it. This was the voice Zeke used whenever Isaac's mother was nearby. He used a very different one when she couldn't hear.
"You brought this on yourself, buckaroo," Zeke said, securing the suitcases to the roof of the car, then making a nest in the center of the trunk. When Isaac just stared at the space that had been created, not sure what Zeke wanted him to do, Zeke picked him up under the arms, swinging him into the hole as if Isaac weighed nothing at all. "See, plenty of room."
"Put down a blanket," Isaac's mother said, but she didn't object to the trunk idea, didn't say it was wrong or that she wouldn't allow it. She didn't even mind that Zeke had stolen the blanket from the motel room. She just stood there with Penina and Efraim huddled close to her, looking disappointed. That was the last thing Isaac saw before Zeke closed the trunk: his mother's face, sad and stern, as if Isaac were the bad one, as if he had caused all the trouble. So unfair. He was the one who was trying to do the right thing.
The trunk was bigger than Isaac expected, and he was not as frightened as he thought he would be. It was too bad it was such an old car. A new one, like his father's, might have an emergency light inside, or even a way to spring the lock. His father had shown him these features in his car after he found Isaac playing with the buttons on his key ring -- popping the trunk, locking and unlocking the Cadillac's doors. Isaac's mother had yelled, saying the key ring wasn't a toy, that he would break it or burn out the batteries, but Isaac's father had shown Isaac everything about his new car, even under the hood. That was his father's way. "Curiosity didn't kill the cat," his father said. "Not getting answers to his questions was what got the cat in trouble." His father had even shut himself in the trunk and shown Isaac how to get out again.
But this car was old, very old, the oldest car Isaac had ever known, probably older than Isaac. It didn't have airbags, or enough seat belts in the backseat. Isaac kept hoping a policeman might pull them over one day because of the seat belts. Or maybe a toll taker would report his mother for holding one of the twins in her lap in the front seat, which she did when they fussed. But there were no tolls here, not on the roads that Zeke drove. Isaac was trying so hard to keep track -- they had started out in Indiana, and then they went to Illinois, but Isaac was pretty sure that they had come back to Indiana in the past week. Or they could still be in Illinois, or even as far west as Iowa. It was hard to see differences here in the middle of the country, where everything was yellow and the towns had strange names that were hard to pronounce.
It was hard to tell time, too, without school marking the days off, without a calendar on the kitchen wall, without Shabbat reminding you that another week had ended. Would God understand about missing Shabbat? If God knew everything, did he know it wasn't Isaac's fault that he wasn't going to yeshiva? Or was it up to Isaac to find a way to pray no matter what, the way his father did when he traveled for business? Now, this was the kind of conversation his father loved. He would have started pulling books from the shelves in his study, looking for various rabbis' opinions. And, whatever the answer was, his father would have made Isaac feel okay, would have assured him that he was doing his best, which was all God expected. That was his father's way, to answer Isaac's questions and make him feel better.