THE LAST PLACE
Laura Lippman, . . Morrow, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97819-9
Favors for friends don't always turn out as expected, Tess Monagham learns in this harrowing encounter with obsession involving her own past. At the urging of best friend Whitney Talbot, Tess agrees to research how police inexperienced with murder cases handle domestic-violence-related investigations. Delving into the specifics of the five deaths she's been assigned, Tess begins to sense that a simple review of the facts won't suffice and that these aren't isolated incidents. Toll-facility cop Carl Dewitt, who found one victim's head on the roadway of a bridge and has become obsessed with that case, convinces her that his detailed knowledge and tenacity can help. The pair cover a lot of ground, from northern Maryland to Virginia, from Baltimore to the Eastern Shore to a remote island where simple beauty can't sustain young people and the aging population keeps its secrets. In the process, Tess confronts some old demons, including a figure who has watched for years as she rows alone in Baltimore Harbor. He knows all about her and is biding his time. Lippman narrows her circle, drawing predator and victim closer. She contrasts the methods of the privileged with the ways ordinary folk must cope and how disastrous the results can be when the monstrous invades their lives.
Reviewed on: 09/23/2002