By a Spider's Thread
Laura Lippman. HarperAudio, $29.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-073861-7
Tess Monaghan is back. After last year's haunting standalone novel Every Secret Thing, Lippman returns with her eighth installment in an award-winning crime series. This time out the determined reporter-turned-private detective agrees to help a handsome but off-puttingly rigid Orthodox Jewish furrier Mark Ruben find his missing wife and children. Monaghan was recommended to the uptight furrier by her Jewish uncle, who spent years working with Ruben in a volunteer program that instructed Jewish prisoners in Jewish rituals and traditions. Ruben makes Monaghan feel as if she knows nothing about being Jewish, even though her mother's family is Jewish. He also makes her feel as if she knows nothing about commitment. About the only thing that makes her like Ruben is the cash he's willing to pay her up front. As weeks go by, Monaghan uncovers a tangle of lies and dark plans that reveal that Ruben's gorgeous young Russian Jewish bride is anything but innocent. Yet much to Monaghan's amazement, nothing seems to dim Ruben's faith in his own tradition or to rock his sense of his role and responsibilities as a husband and a father. Lippman delivers a smart, fast-paced, nuanced story that features a well-drawn supporting cast, including the endearing if dangerous city of Baltimore itself. Lippman's bad guys never become as interesting as her good guys, but there are some captivating touches here, including a criminal who studies the plots of crime novels in prison. Lippmann's many fans will be thrilled.
Reviewed on: 07/01/2004