It was a case Tess turned down - but now she's caught up in a web of obsession and murder . . .
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. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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October 01, 2002
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Excerpt from In a Strange City by Laura Lippman
HE BEGINS ON JANUARY 1, ALWAYS JANUARY 1, PLAYing with his body's schedule until he is increasingly nocturnal, staying up until dawn. Sometimes he finds an all-night diner, although he has learned not to rely on the crutch of caffeine to get through this. He takes a book, sips water or juice, eats plain things: a soft-boiled egg, whole wheat toast, rice pudding. It takes almost three weeks to prepare, another three weeks to recover, but preparation is crucial. He learned that the first year.
The first year. How long has it been now He doesn't want to count. How na ' ve he was, how unthinking. How young, in other words. He did not stop to consider the enormity of the commitment he was making, how quickly it would begin to feel like a prison sentence. He did not know how the cold settled in one's bones for days. He did not realize the cape would rip and unravel and he would have to learn to repair it, for he could not risk taking it to the seamstress at the dry cleaners. He did not work out the logistics of buying roses at this time of year, how he would have to move from florist to florist and buy more than he needed, lest someone put it together.
The cognac was easy, at least. He bought it by the case, at a 10 percent discount, at Beltway Liquors.
What's the difference between a ritual and a routine It's a question he asks himself almost every day. Are rituals better than routines, more elevated Or do rituals invariably slide into routine, until we forget why we started and why we continue Another good question, but he's afraid pondering the answer will only tempt him to sleep, and he is determined to see the sun rise today. Once upon a midnight dreary... ah, but such allusions are unworthy, the sort of obvious unthinking wordplay one expects from the newspaper hacks who write about him. Even in print, they cannot capture him.
He would not say it out loud -- for one thing, he has no one to whom to say it -- but he has begun to feel a kinship with Santa Claus. Who knows, Saint Nick was probably real once. A man decides to put on a red suit, visit a few houses in his village, and leave gifts behind. The first year, it was a lark. The next year, it was an obligation. And then the next, and the next, until he could never stop.
But in that case, the tradition outgrew the man, so others had to step forward and preserve it. He cannot count on this happening here. He had been chosen, and soon he must choose.
The room is cold. The landlord turns the heat down at night. He stirs the embers in the dying fire, tucks a stadium blanket around his legs. He knows this blue-plaid blanket. It was his father's; it came in a plastic bag that zipped and had been used exclusively for its named purpose. He remembers being beneath it at Memorial Stadium, watching the Colts, drinking hot chocolate from an old-fashioned thermos, the very thermos that now sits on his desk, dented here and there and full of herbal tea, not chocolate, but still going strong.