It should be a routine case for private investigator Tess Weinstein Monaghan (The Sugar House, 2000). All the piggy little man whose card read “John P. Kennedy/antique scout” wants is to recover some missing property. But his story about an emerald bracelet belonging to local legend Betsy Bonaparte smells even fishier than the wares at Fuzzy Inglehart’s Cross Street Market seafood stand. So Tess politely declines, especially since the alleged receiver of the stolen gems is none other than Baltimore’s famed Poe Visitor, who brings roses and cognac to the dead writer’s grave at midnight each January 19. When her curiosity gets the better of her, Tess, with her boyfriend Crow tagging along, stakes out the site anyway, only to find two Visitors, one of whom is fatally shot, leaving Tess with no client but plenty of trouble. Homicide detective Jay Rainier suspects her of knowing more than she’s telling, childhood friend Cecilia Cesnik wants her help in making political hay of the murder just because the victim, upscale waiter Bobby Hilliard, happens to be gay, and rival detective Gretchen O’Brien hates her for messing up her own deal with the elusive Kennedy. Since sisterhood is powerful, Gretchen and Tess team up to tail a pair of thieves whose conversation reveals a scheme of breathtaking proportions. But in the end it’s all Tess, uncovering the darkest—and most lethal—secret of all.
If Lippman has her way, Baltimore will be a strange city no longer, but the delight of readers from there to San Diego.