Lippman, Laura. Butcher’s Hill.

NY: Avon, 1998.

Tess Monaghan, ex-newspaper reporter in Baltimore, spent the first two installments in this enjoyable series living over her Aunt Kitty’s bookstore and trying to scrounge a living however she could before she finally edged into doing investigative work for a lawyer friend (who also is her rowing coach). Now, in this third time out, she’s finally made the leap to doing private work full-time.

Her rundown little office is in the rather seedy neighborhood of Butcher’s Hill, but it’s all she can afford. And there she acquires her first client — Luther Beale, the old man the newspapers had dubbed “the Butcher of Butcher’s Hill,” after he shot and killed a young boy, one of a group of street kids who had broken his windows. Beale went to prison for five years — but on a gun charge, not for the killing, which the jury decided was justified. Now he’s out and back in the neighborhood and he wants to find the other kids, who now are teenagers. Tess isn’t clear on his motives — he says he wants to give them money — but she needs the work.

Later that morning, she gets her second client, a very well-dressed and professional-looking young black woman who wants Tess to find her sister, who ran away from home years before. She expects this one to be pretty easy — but there are a lot more angles here than Tess (or the reader) can imagine. Both cases also lap over into the area of government-regulated foster care, about which the author obviously has some opinions and about which Tess learns more than she cared to.

The style is much more mature than in the earlier couple of volumes and Lippman makes the city of Baltimore as much a character in the story as any of those who walk and talk. She’s also developing a nicely dry sense of humor. I’ll be settling in with the rest of this series.

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Published in: on 9 April 2014 at 5:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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