REVIEW by @GinnyLurcock: The Sugar House by Laura Lippman

A client named Ruthie — who seems to know Tess’s father a little too well — asks the newspaperwoman-turned-p.i. to investigate a year-old “Jane Doe” murder and its grim aftermath. Ruthie’s low-life brother, Henry, confessed to killing a teenager runaway over a bottle of glue — and, a month into his prison term, he met the same fate as his victim. Following a precious few tantalizing clues, Tess sets off on a path that is leading her from Baltimore’s exclusive Inner Harbor to the city’s seediest neighborhoods. But it’s the shocking discovery of the runaway’s true identity that turns her hunt deadly. Suddenly a supposedly solved murder case is turning up newer, fresher corpses and newer, scarier versions of the Sugar House — places that look sweet and safe…but only from the outside.

Tess Monaghan (our Tesser) has a great job, an apartment on the cheap with a great view, the love of a good (and younger) man, loads of close friends and family who care about her, BFF Whitney is back in town, and while her feet are wet, her ankles are bone dry!  Everything is coming up Milhouse! 
I mean Monaghan, everything is coming up Monaghan…
Then her father asks her for a favor and everything, predictably, goes to shit.  As the blurb says, Tess is hired to find out the identity of a Jane Doe.  See, Henry, this huffer who confessed to killing her was stabbed in prison, and the sister, Ruthie thinks it’s mysterious.  She’s convinced that Ms. Doe’s family is responsible for the death.  Tess’s only clues are the story of a young girl everyone says is a pathological liar, and an autopsy report.  Of course, she misses an obvious clue on the autopsy report, and Whitney, who is looking for a job and eager to become Tess’s sidekick picks up on this. 
Recently the Tess Monaghan books have been laying some serious truth on you.  In book 3 you learn about the economics of adoption.  In book 4 it was… well I don’t know what it was to be honest.  Tess and Crow almost had angry sex and I got really distracted.  It was something to do with incest, or adultery, or the Alamo… I’m sure by the end I would’ve figured it out, but then they did have sex and said the big L word and then Crow left her stranded naked… and I got stuck on the naked bit again…  I’m sorry, what was I talking about…  Oh yeah, the serious truths.
Well this time, the moral lesson was about body image and eating disorders.  Being a woman, I could totally relate to the feeling that some men (the shitty ones) will view you as simply a collection of parts.  Without giving too much away, there was part where Tess nearly hulked out on one scumbag in particular, but was stopped, and I found myself going “Oh come on, just one tiny concussion?  Please?  Maybe some internal bleeding?”  One thing I wish was also brought up was that women do the same things to men.  Oh sure, there was a pretty boy in the mix who gets treated like shit, but by a man… Women can be guilty of the exact same crimes. 
The author also gives a terrifying look at institutions where young women are sent to heal.  Now I’m not saying all these rehab centers are bad places, but you know some of them are…  *shudders*  Oh, and we also get a nice peak inside the mind of women with eating disorders.  Let me tell you, that is one skerry looking demon, and I have never been so thankful that it is one I have somehow managed to avoid.
Now, I don’t know about you, but based on crime books and TV I am forced to assume that no case is actually easy to solve,  everything is a conspiracy and if someone confesses, they’re lying for some reason.  Also, you’re constantly being followed and someone is going to try and kill you.  I am amazed any crimes are ever solved.
For the nuts and bolts:  I really enjoyed this story.  I hadn’t read a Tess Monaghan book in awhile, but as soon as I picked it up, I was sucked in.  This tome had the return of Whitney and Feeney, who have been absent much to my chagrin.  It also had Crow, Kitty, Tyner, Tull, Jackie, Dorie, Laylah, Esskey, Patrick, and Jackie… but not enough of any of them.  Well except maybe Esskey.  I swear she’s actually the main character sometimes.  Aside from that one minor flaw, it was a solid story.  Perhaps I’m just dumb, but I didn’t see all the ducks until Ms. Lippman had lined them all up in a row for me, which is rare and refreshing.  I give it a 4.0 out of 5.0. 
I might have given it a 5, but there was one real disappointment for me.  Telling would, however, be a spoiler, so I’m omitting it.  I’ll put it in my review if you really need to know.  Hopefully it will be in the next volume.
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  1. Loved the review Ginny!

  2. boomergrl49 says:

    Super review Ginny!

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