(gather.com, Dec. 18, Mike C.)
After reading a lot of heavier material, it was fun to get back to a detective novel with a bit of flair. Besides, the author, Laura Lippman, has the premier dust jacket photo in the world and in between chapters it’s fun to look at her. That she’s photogenic doesn’t count in the assessment of her novel, but it doesn’t hurt.
Laura Lippman is from Baltimore, is married to the producer of The Wire on HBO, set in Baltimore and her detective, Tess Monaghan, is also a Baltimore resident. Baltimore is as much a part of Lippman’s work as it is of Anne Tyler’s and I enjoy both for different reasons.
Lippman writes detective-mystery-suspense with a touch of humor around the edges and so it is with Another Thing to Fall. The plot of this one centers on the backstage antics of an aging lead actor, Johnny Tampa, his emerging, spoiled and disturbed co-star, Selene Waites and murders and suicides enough to keep things bubbling along in fine style. Tess is hired by the producers of the TV series Mann of Steel, a series that seems plausible in today’s world: a modern-day steel-worker in Baltimore falls in love with historical figure Betsy Patterson who was, in history, married to one of the Bonapartes. It’s a time-travel series that I wouldn’t watch, but I can read about with no hives. Part of the fun of the novel is watching Tess wander about this strange new world of “bangers” (trailers for the cast) and “eps” (episodes) and the “minipub” (first version of a script). She does well except for walking off the set with her headphones (called “walkies” in the business—for “walkie-talkie”). The jargon never gets tiresome as Tess takes it as we would, with a somewhat bemused distraction amongst all the stars. It helped that my son is currently working as a PA (production assistant) on his second film so I got to hear some of the language he’s getting used to every day. So far on his sets, no murders or suicides, though he has commented on some personality quirks that bear watching.
The book reads fast, smoothly, makes you laugh and is a good break from the heavier stuff of the day. And that jacket author photo….