Charm City (Tess Monaghan Series #2)

Charm City (Tess Monaghan Series #2)

by Laura Lippman


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In New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s electrifying thriller, PI Tess Monaghan discovers she might’ve gotten herself into a dangerous situation for which there’s no way out. . . .

PI Tess Monaghan is ecstatic to hear the news that business tycoon Gerard “Wink” Wynkowski wants to bring pro-basketball back to Baltimore. But when Wink’s checkered past—which runs the gamut from domestic abuse and compulsive gambling to armed robberies and even manslaughter—makes the front page of the Baltimore Beacon-Light, aka the “Blight” his project is jeopardized. No one is more surprised at the exposé than the editors of the paper who were certain they killed the piece. Hoping to uncover who hacked into their computers, the newspaper hires Tess.

But soon after the story on Wink runs, he’s found asphyxiated in his garage with his car’s engine running. Suicide appears to be the cause of his death—and everyone is blaming the “Blight” for airing his dirty laundry and sending him into the downward spiral that led to his demise. But the more Tess uncovers about Wink, the more she’s convinced that someone with an axe to grind wanted him dead and was willing to go as far as murdering him.

And if this all weren’t enough to keep her plate full, Tess must also find the lowlifes who roughed up her uncle—the same men who are intent on getting back a prized Greyhound dog which she’s currently looking after while her uncle recuperates. Now as Tess’s PI skills are put to the ultimate test, she must stay one step ahead of a diabolical 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062400611
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/09/2015
Series: Tess Monaghan Series , #2
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 107,469
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Since Laura Lippman's debut in 1997, she has been recognized as a distinctive voice in mystery fiction and named one of the "essential" crime writers of the last 100 years. Her books have won most of the major awards in her field and been translated into more than twenty languages. She lives in Baltimore and New Orleans with her family.


Baltimore, Maryland

Date of Birth:

January 31, 1959

Place of Birth:

Atlanta, Georgia


B.S., Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, 1981

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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. Businessmentypes, 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.

Another man limped out on stage, an aging athlete whose cane gave his garish warm-up suit a strangely aristocratic look. "Toooooooooooch. Toooooooooooch," men yodeled and a few women actually screamed when he acknowledged the cheer with a thumb's-up. Yes, Paul Tucci still had his Loyola boy good looks and the build of the star athlete he had once been, although he was fleshier since his much-publicized knee replacement surgery earlier in the winter. Tess suspected the women were swooning not for the Tucci physique, but for the Tucci fortune, which had started in olive oil, then oozed into virtually every aspect of Baltimore life, from food importing to waste disposal. "The Tuccis get you coming and going, it was commonly said.

The music on the P.A. system changed to the sprightly, whistling version of "Sweet Georgia Brown" associated with the Harlem Globetrotters. The governor, inexpertly dribbling a basketball, broke from the group, jigged forward, then passed the ball to the mayor, throwing it over his head. They had never worked together very well. The mayor recovered nicely, retrieving the ball and passing it beneath his legs to a state delegate with a quite new, quite bad hair transplant. The crowd roared its approval. For the pass or the plugs? Tess wondered. Tucci caught the ball and spun it on the tip of his cane, prompting a few more female screams. Then the real basketball players came forward, upstaging the pols with their perfunctorily perfect passes and moves.

After a few minutes, the television anchor-At least he's not dumb enough to come out here bare-legged, Tess noted-seized the floor again.

"Hellooooo, Baltimore." The crowd caroled the greeting back. "As you know, the city has been without basketball since 1972 and has only recently seen the return of football...

Table of Contents

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Charm City 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 63 reviews.
spinspinnsuga More than 1 year ago
After my disappointment with Lippman's first book, "Baltimore Blues," I kept my hopes high for this book, hearing that her work had improved after her first release. I very much enjoyed the Tess Monaghan in this book. Smarter, more established with a firmer hold on her life, she transforms from the awkward, immature woman from "Baltimore Blues" and emerges into a figure many can admire. "Baltimore Blues" Tess was dangerously close to becoming the Stephanie Plum character from Janet Evanovich's books that I despise. I was extremely pleased and relieved Tess managed to grow up. As for this book, "Charm City," the plot was a little confusing. It was a little hard for me to understand how Sterling tied into the beginning and how Tess managed to tie all the evidence together. Her methods to acquire information were at times hard to believe, like when she showed up at the widow Wink's home with a gold bracelet after the media had been hounding her for days. Honestly, what woman would let a stranger into her home and pour her soul out about her private life? Maybe it's just me. Also, in the end (SPOILER ALERT) it was discovered that the culprit's fingerprints were on the car door. Why didn't anyone think to look that up in the beginning, when the crime was committed? Did I miss that? There was no mention of dusting for fingerprints in the first place. Aside from the few holes I found in the story, Lippman has an enormous talent for writing. I admired her sentence structuring and her descriptions. She manages to describe in full detail without boring me or going over the top. I look forward to reading more of her books.
juglicerr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having read two of Lippman's mysteries, I'd classify the plots as solid and competent, interesting but not engrossing. The books excel at describing Baltimore (I grew up in Baltimore County.) Lippman's writing about the city is wonderfully vivid and, more than most, chronicles not only the buildings, but the people and I think would bring the city to life even for those who aren't familiar with it. In this respect, I think that Lippman is better than Anne Tyler. I do have one caveat, one would not guess from this book that most of the population of Baltimore is black. The main problem with the book, unfortunately, is the heroine who is the most implausible private eye I've ever encountered. Miss Marple would eat her for lunch. Tess Monaghan is a very immature, whiny 29-year old, who usually seems about 10 years younger, so diffident that she reminds me of the gooey black mud that coats the bottom of some parts of the Bay and its tributaries: a passive nuisance. She bickers pointlessly with her parents: for example, Tess takes it as a personal affront that her mother likes monochromatic color schemes. This doesn't seem to be the result of losing her only job after the newspaper she worked for folded. She only took that job because one of her friends was a reporter, and when she didn't get a job with the surviving paper, she didn't know what to do. It is hard to fathom why her friends have decided that she should go into detective work, which requires energy, boldness and is potentially dangerous. Tess strikes me as a generally charmless character; I suppose that's why Lippmen gives her a dog in the second book. I often don't find hard-boiled detectives likeable, but as long as I respect them and the stories are good, I don't need to. (Tess is more like half-baked.) A certain sour pettiness goes with the genre. The detective observes all things great and small with an acerbic carping that presumably is intended to show a superior discerning sensibility or entirely too much familiarity with the world's seamy underbelly, but in Tess it's more like tiresome querulousness. After doing a respectable job on her first case, Tess strikes out completely on her second, surviving only because a friend who is considerably faster on the uptake comes to her rescue. Somehow, even as Tess goes about her detecting, what she is shown as doing just doesn't mesh with how she is shown as thinking. Lippman throws in the occasional Good Deed to make her heroine seem more admirable, but it seems more like a formulaic plot contrivance than a natural outcome of Tess' personality. Tess' aunts and uncles, on the other hand are charming and vividly drawn and supply the character interest. So I'd say that if you like books with a strong sense of place, this is a good bet when you're looking for something to read. If character is important to you, or you only like to read this sub-genre is it's really good, I'd look for something else.
JFBallenger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like the first book in this series, *Charm City* is tautly written, tightly plotted, and filled with quirky, colorful characters, and set in lovingly rendered 1990s Baltimore's unique combination of seediness and excess. Tess's character seemed to emerge more fully in this novel. In Baltimore Blues, the first book in the series, she seemed somewhat stilted, the product of some kind of genre formula for creating interesting lead character. In this novel, she seems more like a real person, one you can care about, and care to follow as she explores the mysteries of the human heart -- the true subject of noir fiction. On the whole, this was a very enjoyable if still somewhat formulaic book. But it suggests that there is potentially much better to hope for from the the series. I intend to keep reading it.
DeltaQueen50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is the second instalment in the Tess Monaghan series. Set in Baltimore, the author makes sure to highlight this city with many local references. Tess, herself is a very appealing heroine, half-Irish, half-Jewish, intelligent, independent but talking baby-steps into being a full blown adult. This time out she has a full time job and she is thinking seriously of applying for a private investigator¿s license.I found the story interesting and it certainly held my attention. Tess takes a job with the local newspaper to investigate who tampered with the computers to insert a story that had been shelved. What I really like about this series is that the plot is complex, with many different angles and story lines that Tess has to follow. This time we have a bid to bring pro-basketball to the city, greyhound rescue, her uncles¿ beating, and her concern for her reporter friend Feeney all being thrown in the mix. What comes out is a tightly woven, satisfying murder mystery that left me wanting more.Charm City certainly charmed me with it¿s cast of interesting characters, good storyline, and an enjoyable visit to the city of Baltimore, I will be looking forward to reading more of this series.
cyderry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This the second installment in Tess Monaghan series about an ex-reporter accidentally turned private detective. The series is set in Baltimore and the city life that is described throughout is charming - hence Charm City. Tess in this book is trying to investigate an unusual newspaper story that was printed without the proper editorial authority and could be libelous but before Tess can even get started with her investigation at the newspaper, the person involved turns up dead.At the same time as she is enmeshed in this ethical dilemma, her uncle leaves a dog in her care after he is severely beaten. There is a subplot throughout the book where along with trying to solve the newspaper printing of the unapproved story, Tess is also trying to figure out why she is being followed , assaulted, and kidnapped.As the story evolves, Tess finds blackmail, murder, and identify theft. The ending , for me was a surprise. The background of the city is what really brings this story to life, for me. The little details that tell a true life story could really be there behind the fiction.
reannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Second in Lippman's Tess Monaghan series about a former newspaper woman turned PI. Lippman was herself a newspaper reporter, and is from Baltimore, so she is writing what she knows, and doing it quite well. In this volume Tess is investigating for a paper who inserted a story into the paper that the editors decided not to run, and did the story have anything to do with the death of the man the story was about? Along the way Tess is given a greyhound, a former racing dog, about whom there is a mystery, and she must deal with deciding what she feels about Crow, the man in her life.
KevinJoseph on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Charm City, the second installment in Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan series, has been reissued in hardcover this year, a decade after first appearing in paperback. It's easy to see why publisher William Morrow deemed this mystery worthy of republication. Tess, a former journalist turned private investigator, keeps the narrative edgy with her quirky personality and often-cutting assessments of other characters. The novel uses Baltimore's unique mid-Atlantic atmosphere and notable landmarks to their fullest, making the Charm City as important to the feel of the story as any of the characters or plot turns. The mystery takes a while to rev up, as Lippman juggles the main story line (the mystery surrounding the unauthorized publication in the Beacon-Light newspaper of a scathing article about a businessman who has plans to bring professional basketball to Baltimore) with a subplot involving a brutal attack on Tess's Uncle Spike and its seeming connection to a greyhound dog that comes under Tess's care. While not traditional ingredients for a mystery novel, Lippman cranks up the stakes masterfully when Tess's investigation of these two capers begins to reveal a dark side behind the Beacon-Light newspaper and the greyhound racing establishment. The ending of the novel features plenty of grisly action, along with a few somewhat-improbable twists and character motives that struck me as slightly out-of-place in a mystery that's otherwise so grounded and authentic. Overall, though, this is a strong, engaging novel that works well either as a stand-alone mystery or an entree into the series.
Kathy89 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tess is working freelance for a newspaper while her uncle is in a coma in the hospital. She is given his dog to take care of and this leads her into the investigation of what happened to Spike and why does he have this poor, undernourished, aging greyhound. I found this case more interesting than the investigation of the reporter, her sources, and background. Also, having read the Tess Monahan series out of order, I enjoyed learning about her early relationship with Crow.
HockeyGoddess on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I read a Laura Lippman book, I can't help but smile and think of my best friend, who lives in Baltimore. I love how familiar she is with the city and how she lays it out there in the books. This one also showed her roots as a reporter.But while I did grow to like Tess a little bit more in this second installment of the series, I still don't really "care" for her. It's almost like Tess' kooky family is an attempt to mirror the crazy relatives in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and Tess herself is kind of like less likeable Stephanie Plum.I'm not sure if I am going to continue on with this series or not...we'll have to wait & see!
miyurose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This second book in the series made yet another enjoyable listen. Lippman manages to make Baltimore just as much a character as Tess or her Aunt Kitty. And Deborah Hazlett¿s narration doesn¿t hurt ¿ her Baltimore accent is spot-on. Tess herself isn¿t the greatest private investigator, which I guess is to be expected, since she hasn¿t been one for very long. A lot of what she discovers is happenstance. But where she does excel is in talking to people, and it¿s this ability to talk to everyone from an old lady in a poor part of town to a mafia thug to the rich (and more than a little crazy) ex-wife of the victim that pulls her forward. I liked the addition of Esskay, the greyhound that she takes custody of for her injured "uncle". Tess needed a little unconditional love in her life, especially since her love life remains a bit of a mess.The only thing that was confusing to me was the game of Botticelli that Tess plays in an attempt to get her out of a jam. Not only did I not understand it based on the description in the book, I don¿t even understand it after reading the Wikipedia article!
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the second book in the series as well a I did the first one a couple of months ago. I love it when I find a new mystery series. There are actually two mysteries involved in this story and I suspected that they would dovetail before the end. I was right about that, but wrong in the way it would happen. There were also two villains and I suspected one of them early¿but it was for the wrong crime! The second one I was really late in honing in on¿because I already had a villain picked out for his crime. Can you tell I had a ball with this one? We learn a lot more about Tess and her character is becoming more fully developed. It looks like this series will hold my interest for a while and I'm looking forward to the next one. I love coming to a series ¿late¿ because I don't have to wait so long for the next installment.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Book Two of the Tess Monaghan Detective Series, we find the 5¿9¿ twenty-nine year old working as an investigator for her rowing friend/lawyer, Tyner Gray. The series is set in Baltimore, known [in real life] as "Charm City" since 1974 when the Baltimore Promotion Council decided to enhance the city's image by declaring this new nickname. But sometimes, as Tess discovers, it isn't all that charming.Gray lets Tess take a short leave to work on two side matters that have arisen. The first is that someone has beaten her Uncle Spike within an inch of his life; he is now in a coma. She wants to uncover what happened to him and why. Moreover, for however long he is in the hospital, she has custody of his newly acquired ratty-looking greyhound. Second, she was awarded a contract job by the Beacon-Light newspaper to determine how a feature got printed on the front page that was not yet vetted or approved. The story impugned the reputation of Gerard ¿Wink¿ Wynkowski, who was trying to bring a basketball team back to Baltimore.Tess is unexpectedly attracted to Jack Sterling, the Deputy Managing Editor of the newspaper, although her twenty-three year old boyfriend, Crow, is living with her now. She breaks up with Crow right before their sixth-month anniversary so she can pursue the surge of electricity she felt upon meeting Sterling.Even while dallying with Jack, Tess continues to work on the two side cases, and pretty soon, she has all kinds of nefarious sorts trying to kill her.Evaluation: This second installment of the Tess Monaghan series won the Edgar and Shamus awards for mysteries. I love the Baltimore setting and the characters are quite likeable. The ¿whodunit¿ portions remained mysterious to me until the author clued me in, which I always appreciate in a mystery. I'll keep going with the series!
jaimelesmaths on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Writing and plotting are much better in this second installment in the Tess Monaghan series of books. Characters are still just as interesting and crazy as before with some new additions and minor characters. Additionally, the mystery unfolds much better overall. If you're a cozy fan, this is a series to invest in.
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I really liked this book! It is an easy read and very suspenseful. I really enjpy the characters!
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