Lippman, Laura 1959-
LIPPMAN, Laura 1959-
PERSONAL: Born 1959, in Atlanta, GA; daughter of Theo Lippman, Jr. (a journalist) and a children's librarian; married John Roll. Education: Studied journalism at Northwestern University and Medill School of Journalism. Hobbies and other interests: Eating, drinking, socializing with family and friends, and exercise.
ADDRESSES: Home—Baltimore, MD. Office—Baltimore Sun Company, 501 N. Calvert Street, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore, MD 21278. E-mail—[email protected]
AWARDS, HONORS: Edgar Award and Shamus Award, both for best paperback original novel, both 1997, both for Charm City; Agatha Award, Macavity Award, Anthony Award for best paperback original, and Edgar Award nomination, all 1998, all for Butcher's Hill; Best Local Sun Report distinction, Baltimore Magazine, 2001; Edgar Award nomination and Agatha Award nomination, both 2005, both for By a Spider's Thread; New York Times notable book of the year distinction, for The Last Place; Baltimore (MD) Mayor's Award for Literary Excellence.
Every Secret Thing, Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
By a Spider's Thread, Morrow (New York, NY), 2004.
To the Power of Three, Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
"TESS MONAGHAN" SERIES; MYSTERY NOVELS
Baltimore Blues, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
Charm City, Avon (New York, NY), 1997.
Butcher's Hill, Avon (New York, NY), 1998.
In Big Trouble, Avon (New York, NY), 1999.
The Sugar House, Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
In a Strange City, Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
The Last Place, Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
ADAPTATIONS: To the Power of Three has been adapted to audiotape.
SIDELIGHTS: A journalist who has worked for newspapers in Texas and Maryland, mystery novelist Laura Lippman is well known for her "Tess Monaghan" series that features a reporter turned private investigator. Her series has been critically well received, with the first novel in the series, Baltimore Blues, being nominated for a Shamus Award for best first novel. Subsequent books have garnered such prestigious prizes as the Edgar Allan Poe Award, Shamus Award, and Agatha Award.
Asked by an online MysteryNet writer about the similarities between Tess and herself, Lippman commented, "She's the person I might have been if I had lost my job in my 20s—a rougher exterior, but a much softer interior, full of self doubts. Like many fictional characters, she gets to say the rude/funny things I would never dare to say out loud. She is brave and principled, two things I like to think I am, but perhaps not to the extent Tess is." Asked about her favorite book and the authors who influenced her writing, she answered, "Favorite book? Lolita, which does have whodunit elements and quite a few clues sprinkled throughout. In the mystery field, I was heavily influenced by James Cain, Sara Paretsky, Carl Hiaasen, Walter Mosley and inevitably, I suppose Raymond Chandler. One of my all-time favorites is Phillip Roth. I also read a lot of what I call 'girl fiction,' a term I use with great affection and the highest respect for the work of Joanna Trollope, Alice Adams, Gail Godwin, Cathleen Schine and Laurie Colwin, among others."
Lippman's "Tess Monaghan" series has received largely positive reviews from critics as well as readers in the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Norway, and Portugal. Elizabeth Pincus, writing in the Voice Literary Supplement, called Monaghan "a dame with the old-fashioned hubris of Phillip Marlowe and a thoroughly modern, unruly mind." She added, "There's a pulpy little thrill in finding the best mystery writing around within the gaudy, palm-sized pages of a mass market release."
Lippman's journalism background adds verisimilitude to the story of Tess Monaghan. The first book in the series, Baltimore Blues, introduces Tess, a reporter who has been downsized from her most recent newspaper job. When not working at Aunt Kitty's bookstore, Tess works out by rowing in the Patapsco River. When Rocky, a rowing buddy, pays her a huge sum of money to follow his fiancée, murder ensues and Rocky is the number one suspect. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that in Lippman's debut effort "hometown and newspaper backgrounds are alive from page one," but felt that the characters do not become interesting until about halfway through the book.
In the second Monaghan book, Charm City, Tess investigates the suicide of local celebrity and tycoon "Wink" Wynkowsky. However, as she uncovers deep corruption in the baseball stadium project that Wynkowsky championed, she soon finds out that Wynkowsky's demise might not be self-inflicted. She also must figure out how the recent mugging of her Uncle Spike, which left the man in a coma, is related to Wynkowsky's death. The book offers "shrewd observation, on-target descriptions, believable characters and hilarious one-liners," noted a Publishers Weekly critic. In a Strange City focuses on one of Baltimore's most famous phenomena, the annual appearance of the mysterious "Poe Toaster," who leaves cognac and three red roses on Edgar Allan Poe's grave on the author's birthday every January. The appearance of a second Poe Toaster, and the death of one, complicates the literary tradition.
In a more recent installment of the series, The Last Place, Tess clashes with a predator who prowls the Internet looking for young girls to seduce. After finding date-rape drugs in a suspect's pocket, she slips him a couple of his own pills, douses him with depilatory cream, and dumps him in a public place, prompting the predator to claim he is the victim. Meanwhile, Tess takes on the task of reopening and investigating a number of cold-cases of domestic violence and murder. "The hallmark of Lippman's finely crafted mystery series has been her acute ability to deliver sturdy tales that push the edges of the traditional private eye novel," noted Oline H. Cogdill in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and in this one, she "takes an unconventional look at the anger and maliciousness behind domestic violence." Tess's stunt lands her in court-ordered anger-management therapy. Cogdill commented that Tess's "sardonic wit and love of pop culture as well as compassion add texture to this ever-evolving character who has so many more tales to tell about herself and her city."
Lippman said in an interview with Books 'n Bytes contributor Jon Jordan that she enjoys setting all of her books in Baltimore. "I know parts of Baltimore well, but it's an extremely complicated city. I'd be skeptical of anyone who claimed to master all its cultures and subcultures, not to mention its history. It's like a really good song, a standard that a lot of people have covered over the years … say, 'My Funny Valentine.' I have my version, and it's authentic, but not authentic."
Lippman is also the author of a pair of novels outside the Tess Monaghan books. At the beginning of Every Secret Thing, two ten-year-old girls are sent home from a pool party for misbehaving. On the way, they see an unattended baby carriage and decide they must "save" the baby. The child, however, is killed, and when the narrative picks up seven years later, Alice and Ronnie are released from prison and return home to the neighborhood where they committed the deed. Though they try to readjust to life, children start disappearing, which turns heated scrutiny on them. The children usually reappear, but when one toddler fails to come back, the neighborhood fears the convicted child-killers are at it again. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the book "lucid, tight, and compelling." A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that Lippman's "deft handling of this disturbing material is sure to increase the breadth of her readership."
To the Power of Three explores the topic the unthinkable reasons that could allow a close friendship to end in bloodshed. Kat, Josie, and Perri are high school students who have been best friends since childhood. One morning, however, the school and the city is rocked when the three suffer violence in a restroom—Kat is dead, Perri is seriously injured and in a coma, and Josie is shot in the foot, but deeply traumatized. The evidence suggests that Perri was the shooter, but police officers Harold Lenhardt and Kevin Infante do not believe Josie's story. "Some of the scenes are wonderfully well told, and Lippman, as always, neatly skewers people in power," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Cogdill concluded that with this book, "Lippman shows the power of strong characters who richly control the story, and resolutions are often as messy as life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2001, Jenny McLarin, review of In a Strange City, p. 1635; September 1, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of The Last Place, p. 63; July, 2003, Connie Fletcher, review of Every Secret Thing, p. 1846; March 1, 2005, Stephanie Zvirin, review of By a Spider's Thread, p. 1213.
Economist, May 12, 2001, "Damn Yankees; Two Hot Talents in Detective Fiction," review of The Sugar House, p. 1.
Entertainment Weekly, September 5, 2003, Caroline Kepnes, review of Every Secret Thing, p. 80.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of The Last Place, p. 1080; July 1, 2003, review of Every Secret Thing, p. 878; May 1, 2005, review of To the Power of Three (audiobook), p. 514.
Kliatt, November, 2003, Nola Theiss, review of The Sugar House, p. 53; May, 2005, Francine Levitov, review of By a Spider's Thread, p. 52.
Library Journal, September 15, 2000, Wilda Williams, review of The Sugar House, p. 119; September 15, 2002, Michele Leber, review of The Last Place, p. 97; July, 2003, Michele Leber, review of Every Secret Thing, p. 123; August, 2004, Michele Leber, review of By a Spider's Thread, p. 60; July 1, 2005, Amy Brozio-Andrews, review of To the Power of Three, p. 69.
Orlando Sentinel, October 17, 2003, Nancy Pate, review of The Last Place.
Publishers Weekly, December 30, 1996, review of Baltimore Blues, p. 64; August 18, 1997, review of Charm City, p. 89; June 1, 1998, review of Butcher's Hill, p. B48; July 26, 1999, review of In Big Trouble, p. 88; November 29, 1999, Judy Quinn, "No Mystery to Laura Lippman's Leap," p. 32; August 7, 2000, review of The Sugar House, p. 79; September 23, 2002, review of the Last Place, p. 54; July 7, 2003, review of Every Secret Thing, p. 49; July 5, 2004, Tracy Cochran, "The Baltimore Beat: Charmed City Scribe Laura Lippman Covers Crime in Her Own Way," profile of Laura Lippman, p. 29; May 16, 2005, review of To the Power of Three, p. 35.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, September 21, 2001, Oline H. Cogdill, review of In a Strange City; October 25, 2002, Oline H. Cogdill, review of The Last Place; June 29, 2005, Oline H. Cogdill, review of To the Power of Three.
Voice Literary Supplement, October-November, 1999, Elizabeth Pincus, "The Lonesome Star," p. 135.
Bookreporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (September 5, 2003), interview with Laura Lippman; Ava Dianne Day, reviews of The Last Place and Every Secret Thing; Andi Schechter, reviews of By a Spider's Thread and To the Power of Three.
Books 'n' Bytes, http://www.booksnbytes.com/ (April 4, 2003), Jon Jordan, interview with Lippman.
Laura Lippman Web site, http://www.lauralippman.com (February 2, 2006).
MysteryNet, http://www.mysterynet.com/ (February 3, 2000), interview with Lippman.