Lippman, Laura. In Big Trouble.

NY: HarperCollins, 2006.

Most novelists seem eventually to write a “road trip” book and this is Lippman’s. Tess Monaghan, girl reporter turned PI, knows practically everything there is to know about her native Baltimore, but she doesn’t enjoy travel much nor is she into exploring new places.

But now she doesn’t much choice, having received an equivocal news clipping from her ex-boyfriend, Crow, who went off to Austin to seek his fortune in the music business. Even though she had dumped him for what she thought at the time were good reasons, she knows she still has deep feelings for him. With Crow’s parents footing the bill, off she goes with a change of clothes and her retired greyhound, Esskay, to central Texas, where she gradually gets caught up in a couple of present-day murders and the reinvestigation of several old cases.

The neat thing is, I went to high school in the north San Antonio neighborhood where much of the story is set. Tess eats several times at Earl Abel’s, where we used to go after school dances c.1960, and at the Bun ‘n’ Barrel, which was three blocks from my house. She also has to have the local term “ice house” explained to her, which is the kind of place we used to go for root beer and watermelon in the summer. What’s more, Lippmann was obviously paying attention on her own visits to S.A., because she gets all of it right. (Something much higher-earning writers like Sue Grafton have shown they can’t be bothered with.)

Lippman is good at original characterization and this novel is no exception. Emmie, the unbalanced singer, is especially well done, as is Rick, the glib Hispanic attorney with an accent for every occasion. And Tess’s on-again-off-again relationship with Crow is entirely believable. I find myself becoming quite addicted to this series.

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