People, places and the things they love are the focus of Lippman’s unwavering gaze in this collection of 17 stories, 15 of them reprints from 2001–07.
Not all of Lippman’s characters have the burning sense of justice of Tess Monaghan, Lippman’s series sleuth. The dual heroines of “Scratch a Woman,” the volume’s brand-new centerpiece novella, seem more concerned with safeguarding their comfortable suburban lifestyle against threats real and imagined. Protecting what’s theirs cuts across age categories, as 20-something Molly of “The Crack Cocaine Diet,” over-mortgaged soccer mom Sally in “ARM and the Woman” and senior-citizen porn star Mona in “Femme Fatale” all prove. In the chilling title story, a Dundalk teenager learns to protect herself against her inveterate gambler dad. Lippman’s Baltimore tales have the strongest sense of place, from the tony Brass Elephant on Charles Street where Tess and her best friend Whitney Talbot interrupt a fistfight in “The Shoeshine Man’s Regrets” to the gentrified Federal Hill of “Easy as A-B-C,” to the south-of-Pimlico row houses in “Black-Eyed Susan,” where enterprising families find ingenious ways to make a buck on Preakness Saturday. But her sketches of New Orleans and D.C. ring true, and “Honor Bar,” set in Dublin, could take place in any hotel in any town in the world. As “Dear Penthouse Forum (A First Draft)” demonstrates, Lippman’s best action is inside her characters’ minds anyway.
Lippman fans won’t be disappointed with these small treasures.