cover image Charm City

Charm City

Laura Lippman. Avon Books, $7.99 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-380-78876-7

""Defrocked journalist"" turned private investigator Tess Monaghan (from Baltimore Blues) is posing as a reporter for the Baltimore Beacon-Light, aka the Blight, in order to look into the apparent suicide of hometown hero and tycoon ""Wink"" Wynkowski. Political and journalistic corruption surrounds plans for a new basketball stadium for which Wink was a major dealmaker. But Tess's personal life is also being drawn in to the case: her Uncle Spike is in a coma as a result of a mugging that may be related, leaving Tess the reluctant caretaker of his lovable, if smelly, greyhound. A denouement from left field will startle some readers, but it is a small price to pay for shrewd observation, on-target descriptions, believable characters and hilarious one-liners. Baltimore Blues showed promise after a faltering start, and here Lippman displays a far surer, more even, hand. (Oct.)