As a practiced reporter until her newspaper went to that great pressroom in the sky, P.I. Tess Monaghan knows and loves every inch of her native Baltimore, even the parts being slobbered on by the sad-sack greyhound she's minding for her uncle. It's a quirky city where baseball reigns, but lately homicide seems to be the second most popular local sport. Business tycoon "Wink" Wynkowski is trying to change all that by bringing pro basketball back to town, and everybody's rooting fro him -- until a devastating, muckraking expose of his lurid past appears on the front page of the Baltimore Beacon-Light. It's a
surprise even to the Blight's editors, who thought they'd killed the piece. Instead, the piece killed Wink -- who's found in his garage with the car running.
Now the Blight wants to nail the unknown computer hacker who planted the lethal story, and the assignment is right up the alley of a former newshound like Tess. But it doesn't take long for her to discover deeper, darker secrets, and to realize that this situation is really more about whacking than hacking. It's just murder in Baltimore these days -- and Tess Monaghan herself might be next on the list.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
October 01, 1997
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Charm City by Laura Lippman
Nothing wet was falling out of the sky. No snow, no ice, no hail, no rain changing to sleet, no sleet changing to rain. And that was reason enough, Tess Monaghan decided, to feel celebratory. She would walk home from work instead of taking her usual bus, maybe stop at Bertha's and squinch up her nose at the tourists eating mussels, or nurse something warm and alcoholic at Henniger's. A March Monday night in Baltimore would never be Mardi Gras, or even Lundi Gras, but it could have its moments, for savvy natives inclined to seek them out. Tess was inclined. For the first time in more than two years, she had a full-time job and a full-time boyfriend. Her life might not have the partyall-the-time euphoria of a beer commercial, but it was definitely edging into International Coffee territory.
The first few blocks of her walk home were deserted. Downtown tended to empty out early. But as Tess approached the Inner Harbor, she suddenly found herself in the thick of a jazzed-up, happy crowd. Were those klieg lights up ahead? Tess might have left newspaper reporting behind, but her instincts could still be juiced. Besides, she had caught a whiff of food-hot dogs, popcorn pretzels, something sweet and scorched. Cotton candy, one of those seductive foods that smelled so much better than it tasted.
"It's all free, hon," a vendor said, holding out a hot dog slathered with mustard and relish. "Courtesy of the Keys."
Tess had no idea what he was talking about, but she took the hot dog anyway.
What would draw so many people to the harbor on a usually dead Monday evening, she wondered, finishing off the free dog in three bites. Businessmen types, coming from work. Young men in athletic gear and polished-looking women in gabardine raincoats, high heels striking sidewalks only recently liberated from the last ice storm. Then there were the suburban moms, in leggings, oversize sweaters, and fluffy jackets, holding tight to the hands of small children, who held even tighter to small black-and-violet flags.
Carried along by the crowd and its feverish anticipation, Tess found herself at the small outdoor amphitheater between Harborplace's two pavilions. Hundreds of people were already there, massed in front of the small stage. A man with a bullhorn, a local television anchor, was leading a chant. It took Tess a moment to understand the bluffed, electronically amplified words.
"Slam dunk! Jam one! Slam dunk! Jam one!"
Other men filed out, a ragtag basketball team in blackand-violet warm-up outfits. Some wore shorts, their legs all purple gooseflesh in the brisk evening. Who would be crazy enough to come out like that on a night like this? Tess recognized the governor. That figured; he had never met a costume he didn't like. But the mayor, not known for his sense of whimsy, was there as well in a black warm-up suit, his trademark Kente cloth tie peeking over the zipper. Tess spotted another television type, two state senators, and a few pituitary cases from the old Baltimore Bullets, now the Washington Wizards, renamed in deference to that city's homicide rate. Surprisingly, the name change hadn't done much to quell the capital's violence.
"Slam dunk! Jam one! Slam dunk! Jam one!"
Beneath the crowd's chant, Tess picked out a tinny recording, the city's onetime public service jingle, which had encouraged people to keep the streets clean by playing "trash ball." She remembered it vaguely. The city's orange-and-white wastebaskets had been decorated with slogans such as Jam One! or Dunk One! Then they'd ended the campaign and collectors of Baltimorebilia had stolen the trash cans before they could be taken off the streets and repainted.