Lippman's latest installment in the Tess Monaghan series weaves an exploration of the joys and frustrations of motherhood with a clever and engaging mystery.
In the last Monaghan mystery, The Girl in the Green Raincoat (2011), Tess solved a Rear Window–style crime when her doctor confined her to bed rest at the end of her pregnancy. Fast-forwarding three years, Lippman has brought Tess back, now the mother of toddler Carla Scout as well as a full-time PI. She has taken on a new partner, ex–homicide cop Sandy Sanchez (the protagonist of Lippman's excellent 2014 stand-alone, After I'm Gone), but even with Sandy's help Tess struggles to juggle her tantrum-prone daughter, her relationship with longtime boyfriend Crow and her work. The job in question is complex and juicy: Tess has been hired by the rich and haughty Melisandre Harris Dawes, who killed her infant daughter by leaving her in a sweltering car. Dawes was found not guilty by reason of insanity (specifically, postpartum psychosis), but after her trial, she gave away custody of her older daughters, divorced her husband and fled the country. Now she's returned to Baltimore and wants Tess to look into her security. She's also commissioned a documentary on the insanity defense, giving Lippman plenty of room to share her observations on our passion for reality TV and obsession with the most horrifying crimes. Before long, both Dawes and Tess are receiving notes with creepy stalker overtones, and the case takes a nasty, violent turn.
Tess' constant worry about whether she's a good mother dovetails ironically with Dawes' fight to win her daughters back. Lippman dives deep not only into the ways women tend to question their choices and abilities, but also into whether all mothers, and kids, are a little crazy.