Monday, September 12, 2016

In a Strange City by Laura Lippman

Baltimore’s most famous son, Edgar Allan Poe, has inspired the mysterious Poe toaster to honor the anniversary of his death each year by leaving three roses and a partial bottle of cognac on his grave.  In 2001, Baltimore detective Tess Monaghan has an odd client, John P. Kennedy, enter her office requesting that she determine the identity of the Poe toaster as he has stolen a valuable object from Kennedy.  Tess refuses to take the case, but can’t help but attend the annual event with her boyfriend Crow. This year there are two Poe toasters and one of them ends up dead.  Who is the Poe toaster?  Who was the murderer?  Who is John P. Kennedy and what object did he want?

I’m a fan of the Tess Monahan books, but I’ve read the last few in the series.  I was happy to be able to review this reissue of a previous entry in the series.  At this point Tess and Crow are a relatively new couple and are restoring their house together.  Tess is new as a PI and is flustered by this case.  She wants to solve it for personal curiosity more than for a fee of any kind.  The plot has many twists and turns and kept me riveted.

I was always intrigued by the Poe toaster and loved to read about him every year.  I was sad when he stopped this annual event.  I looked it up while reading this novel and it appears the original toaster passed on his mantle to someone else and this new toaster stopped in 2010.  Lippman also mentions this and recent Baltimore events in a very intriguing afterword.

I love how this novel was a love letter to Baltimore and also a look at greed.  At the heart are several people trying to obtain rare objects and sell them for high prices to others or keep them for their own sake.  Why do we as a society place so much value on “things” and want to keep items that remind us of our youth?

Overall, this was a great entry in the Tess Monaghan series.  I especially loved the Poe connection, the love of the City of Baltimore, and the look at society’s materialism.  I look forward to reading more in this series!

My favorite quotes:

“What is the difference between a ritual and a routine?”

“Former co-workers weighed in with the usual noninformation: ‘quiet guy,’ ‘kept to himself,’ ‘dependable.’  Just once, Tess would like to read a story where someone said, ‘He was a jerk, and we’re not the least bit surprised someone finally offed him.’”

“Evil isn’t particular about its personnel.”

“The standards for public discourse had fallen so alarmingly in recent years that anyone could say anything on the airwaves, especially if the target was dead.”

Do you collect items and esteem them?  (I do – books!)

What is your favorite Poe poem or short story?  (Mine is Annabel Lee)

Book Source:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and balanced review from William Morrow.  Thank-you!


  1. A new one for me. Thanks for the review.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this new-to-me book, Laura! I enjoyed your selection of quotations. My favorite Poe story is probably The Tell-tale Heart. It is so frighteningly good!

  3. This sounds so good--I'm going to rush over to GoodReads and put on my TBR list. I haven't read a lot of Poe--the usual short stories in middle school. My daughter loves Annabel Lee. And I love the Poe soceity episode on The Gilmore Girls. Great review and excellent quotes!

    1. I still haven't watched The Gilmore Girls! I'm intrigued that they had a Poe episode. I need to reread Poe as well, it's been quite awhile since I read his stories.