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The Books
Tess rows here Baltimore Blues
Charm City
Butchers Hill
In Big Trouble
The Sugar House
In a Strange City
The Last Place
Every Secret Thing
Like A Charm
By A Spider's Thread
To The Power of Three
Baltimore Noir
No Good Deeds
What the Dead Know
Another Thing to Fall
Hardly Knew Her
Life Sentences
I'd Know You Anywhere

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Baltimore Blues
Baltimore Blues
February 1997
Avon Books
nominated for a Shamus for best first novel

The first Tess Monaghan novel was inspired by my own job insecurity -- Maryland was deep in a recession at the time I began writing it -- and my fleeting desire to kill someone. Tess, a former newspaper reporter who hasn't figured out what to do with her life, conducts a low-stakes investigation for a fellow rower. The friend ends up being charged with murder and Tess is pressed into service by his attorney. This novel infuriated some readers because Tess was a mopey incompetent as a private investigator. But it was her first case. She got better.

Charm City
Charm City
October 1997
Avon Books
winner of the Edgar and Shamus awards,
nominated for the Anthony

Tess Monaghan is asked to investigate how a "spiked" article ended up on page one of the Beacon-Light, one edition only. The unauthorized publication appears to have led to the suicide of a prominent local citizen, and the paper's editors fear legal action. The novel also details the strange power that professional sports teams have over cities -- perhaps because it was written during the time Baltimore kidnapped the Cleveland Browns and turned them into the Ravens.

Butchers Hill
July 1998
Avon Books
winner of the Agatha and Anthony awards
nominated for the Edgar, Shamus and Macavity

This novel was inspired by a real-life Baltimore homicide, the story of a man who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy who had thrown rocks at his car. But it also drew on what I learned from covering social services and poverty for five years in the early 1990s. An elderly man who has served his sentence for shooting a young boy asks Tess to find the four children who witnessed the murder, saying he wants to make restitution to them. But as soon as Tess starts to find these eyewitnesses, now teen-agers, they start dying.

In Big Trouble
In Big Trouble
September 1999
Avon Books
winner of the Anthony and Shamus awards,
nominated for the Edgar and Agatha

A mysterious letter beckons Tess to San Antonio, where she searches for a lost love -- and wonders why she lost him in the first place. Elizabeth Pincus, writing in the Village Voice Literary Supplement, said it best when she noted this novel "trolls the very nature of home, displacement, and longing in a history-spackled plot as big as, well, Texas." It's also my own salute to "The Wizard of Oz," which is often referenced in the Tess series. Tess, thrust into a strange place, finds counterparts to the true, loyal friends and family members back in Baltimore.

The Sugar House The Sugar House
September 2000
Morrow/Avon Books
nominated for best P.I. novel by the Romantic Times
cited as one of the best mystery novels of the year by the Washington Post, the London Times, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and

Tess is asked by her father to investigate a dormant "Jane Doe" case. A girl was killed, her killer was caught -- but the identity of the girl has never been established. And when the killer himself is killed, his sister comes to believe that his victim's identity may be the key. The book draws on Maryland's fertile political history, which has produced such memorable individuals as Spiro T. Agnew and William Donald Schaefer.

In A Strange CityIn a Strange City
Hardcover from Morrow, September 2001
Paperback from Avon, October 2002

Read an excerpt.

It's a well-known Baltimore ritual: Every year, on Edgar Allan Poe's birthday, a mysterious figure visits the writer's grave, leaving behind three roses and a bottle of cognac. When Tess gets wind of a plot to unmask the so-called Poe Toaster, she decides to stand guard. To her amazement, two visitors approach -- and one is shot and killed.

Quick Fix: Meanwhile, those longing for a quick Tess fix can try "Ropa Vieja" in "Murderer's Row," Otto Penzler's anthology of baseball stories from New Millennium. Other contributors include Elmore Leonard, Brendan Dubois and Mike Lupica.

Hardcover from Morrow, Oct. 2002
Paperback from Avon, Sept. 2003

Read an excerpt.

The Last Place
In hot legal water -- and court-ordered therapy -- for having assaulted a potential child molester, Tess Monaghan is more than ready for a distraction. So she agrees to look into a series of unsolved homicides that date back over the past six years despite the fact that the assignment originates in part from a most troubling source: wealthy Baltimore benefactor Luisa O'Neal, who was both instrumental in launching Tess's present career and intimately connected with the murder of Tess's former boyfriend.

Hot new stand-alone --
Anthony and Barry award winner --

Every Secret Thing
Hardcover from William Morrow, Sept. 2003
Paperback from Avon, Oct. 2004

Read an excerpt.

On a July afternoon two little girls, banished from a birthday party, take a wrong turn onto an unfamiliar Baltimore street -- and encounter an abandoned stroller with a baby inside it. Dutiful Alice Manning and unpredictable Ronnie Fuller only want to be helpful, to be good. People like children who are good, Alice thinks. But whatever the girls' real intentions, things go horribly awry and three families are destroyed.

Seven years later Alice and Ronnie are heading home again -- only separately this time, their fragile bond long shattered, their secrets still closely kept. Advised to avoid each other, they enter a world where they essentially have no past. In exchange, they are promised a fresh start, the chance to mold their own future.

That promise is broken when a child disappears, under disturbingly similar circumstances. And the adults in Alice's and Ronnie's lives -- the parents, the lawyers, the police -- realize that they must now confront the shattering truths they couldn't face seven years earlier. Or another mother will lose her child.

Homicide detective Nancy Porter was a rookie cop when she solved the original case with a bit of freakish luck -- and almost derailed her own career. Adept at finding the small things that can make or break a homicide case, now she must master the larger picture in order to understand where guilt truly lies. For no one is innocent in this world. Not even the children.

By A Spider's ThreadTess is back!
By A Spider's Thread
Hardcover from Morrow, July 2004
Paperback from Avon Books, June 2005
Read an excerpt.

Mark Rubin's family is missing -- and the police can't do a thing because all the evidence indicates that his wife left willingly. So the successful furrier turns to Tess Monaghan, hoping she can help him find his wife and three children. Tess doesn't know quite what to make of Rubin, a wealthy Orthodox Jew who refuses to shake her hand and doles out vitally important information in grudging dribs and drabs. According to her client, he and his beautiful wife, Natalie, had a flawless, happy marriage. Yet one day, without any warning or explanation, Natalie gathered up their children and vanished.

Tapping into a network of fellow investigators spread across the country, Tess is soon able to locate the runaway wife and her stolen progeny, moving furtively from state to state, town to town. But the Rubins are not alone. A man is traveling with them, a stranger described by witnesses as "handsome" and "charming" but otherwise unremarkable to these casual observers, who have no way of sensing the fury beneath his smooth surface.

The motive behind Natalie's reckless flight lies somewhere in the gap between what Mark Rubin will not say and what he refuses to believe. An intricate web of betrayal and vengeance is already beginning to unravel, as memory begets rage and rage leads to desperation -- and murder. And suddenly much more than one man's future happiness and stubborn pride are in peril; the lives of three innocent children are dangling by the slenderest of threads.

To The Power of Three
Hardcover from Morrow, June 2005
Paperback from Avon Books, July 2006

The three girls have been inseparable best friends since the third grade -- Josie, the athletic one; Perri, the brilliant, acerbic drama queen; and Kat, the beauty, who also has brains, grace, and a heart open to all around her. But their last day of high school becomes their final day together after one of them brings a gun to school to resolve a mysterious feud. When the police arrive, they discover two wounded girls, one so critically that she is not expected to recover. The third girl is dead, killed instantly by a shot to the heart.

What transpired that morning at Glendale High rocks the foundation of an affluent community in Baltimore's distant suburbs, a place that has barely recovered from an earlier, more comprehensible tragedy. For the shell-shocked parents, teachers, administrators, and students, healing must begin with answers to the usual questions -- but only if the answers are safe ones, answers that will lead back to one girl and one family and absolve everyone else.

For Homicide Sgt. Harold Lenhardt, this case is a mystery with more twists than these grief-stricken suburbanites are willing to acknowledge -- and the sole lucid survivor, a girl with a teenager's uncanny knack for stonewalling, strikes him as being less than honest. What is she concealing? Is she trying to protect herself or someone else? Even the simplest secrets can kill -- and kill again if no one is willing to confront them.

Baltimore Noir
Baltimore Noir
Edited by Laura Lippman
Akashic Books, Trade Paperback
May 2006

Brand new crime fiction stories from David Simon, Laura Lippman, Tim Cockey, Rob Hiaasen, Robert Ward, Sujata Massey, Jack Bludis, Rafael Alvarez, Marcia Talley, Joseph Wallace, Lisa Respers France, Charlie Stella, Sarah Weinman, Dan Fesperman, Jim Fusilli, and Ben Neihart.

See Laura's Letter about Baltimore Noir...

No Good Deeds
No Good Deeds
Hardcover from Morrow, July 2006
Paperback from HarperCollins, February 2007

For Tess Monaghan, the unsolved murder of a young federal prosecutor is nothing more than a theoretical problem, one of several cases to be deconstructed in her new gig as a consultant to the local newspaper. But it becomes all too tangible when her boyfriend brings home a young street kid who doesn't even realize he holds an important key to the man's death. Tess agrees to protect the boy's identity no matter what, especially when one of his friends is killed in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity. But with federal agents determined to learn the boy's name at any cost, Tess finds out just how far even official authorities will go to get what they want. Soon she's facing felony charges -- and her boyfriend, Crow, has gone into hiding with his young protégé, so Tess can't deliver the kid to investigators even if she wants to. Time and time again Tess is reminded of her father's old joke, the one about the most terrifying sentence in the English language: "We're from the government -- and we're here to help."

What the Dead Know What the Dead Know
Hardcover from Morrow, March 2007
Paperback from Harper, Feb. 26, 2008

Thirty years ago two sisters disappeared from a shopping mall. Their bodies were never found and those familiar with the case have always been tortured by these questions: How do you kidnap two girls? Who—or what—could have lured the two sisters away from a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon without leaving behind a single clue or witness?

Now a clearly disoriented woman involved in a rush-hour hit-and-run claims to be the younger of the long-gone Bethany sisters. But her involuntary admission and subsequent attempt to stonewall investigators only deepens the mystery. Where has she been? Why has she waited so long to come forward? Could her abductor truly be a beloved Baltimore cop? There isn't a shred of evidence to support her story, and every lead she gives the police seems to be another dead end—a dying, incoherent man, a razed house, a missing grave, and a family that disintegrated long ago, torn apart not only by the crime but by the fissures the tragedy revealed in what appeared to be the perfect household.

In a story that moves back and forth across the decades, there is only one person who dares to be skeptical of a woman who wants to claim the identity of one Bethany sister without revealing the fate of the other. Will he be able to discover the truth?

Another Thing to FallAnother Thing to Fall
Hardcover from Morrow, March 2008

The California dream weavers have invaded Charm City with their cameras, their stars, and their controversy. . . .

When private investigator Tess Monaghan literally runs into the crew of the fledgling TV series Mann of Steel while sculling, she expects sharp words and evil looks, not an assignment. But the company has been plagued by a series of disturbing incidents since its arrival on location in Baltimore: bad press, union threats, and small, costly on-set "accidents" that have wreaked havoc with its shooting schedule. As a result, Mann's creator, Flip Tumulty, the son of a Hollywood legend, is worried for the safety of his young female lead, Selene Waites, and asks Tess to serve as her bodyguard/babysitter. Tumulty's concern may be well founded. Not long ago a Baltimore man was discovered dead in his own home, surrounded by photos of the beautiful, difficult superstar-in-the-making.

In the past, Tess has had enough trouble guarding her own body. Keeping a spoiled movie princess under wraps may be more than she can handle—even with the help of Tess's icily unflappable friend Whitney—since Selene is not as naive as everyone seems to think, and far more devious than she initially appears to be. This is not Tess's world. And these are not her kind of people, with their vanities, their self-serving agendas and invented personas, and their remarkably skewed visions of reality—from the series' aging, shallow, former pretty-boy leading man to its resentful, always-on-the-make cowriter to the officious young assistant who may be too hungry for her own good.

But the fish-out-of-water P.I. is abruptly pulled back in by an occurrence she's all too familiar with—murder. Suddenly the wall of secrets around Mann of Steel is in danger of toppling, leaving shattered dreams, careers, and lives scattered among the ruins—a catastrophe that threatens the people Tess cares about . . . and the city she loves.

Hardly Knew Her Hardly Knew Her
HarperCollins Publishers, October 2008

Lippman sets many of the stories in this sterling anthology, Hardly Knew Her, in familiar territory: her beloved Baltimore, from downtown to its affluent suburbs, where successful businessmen go to shocking lengths to protect what they have or ruthlessly expand their holdings, while dissatisfied wives find murderous ways to escape their lives. But Lippman is also unafraid to travel—to New Orleans, to an unnamed southwestern city, and even to Dublin, the backdrop for the lethal clash of two not-so-innocents abroad. Tess Monaghan is here, in two stories and a profile, aligning herself with various underdogs. And in her extraordinary, never-before-published novella, Scratch a Woman, Lippman takes us deep into the private world of a high-priced call girl/madam and devoted soccer mom, exploring the mystery of what may, in fact, be written in the blood.

Life Sentences
HarperCollins Publishers, March, 2009

Writer Cassandra Fallows achieved critical and commercial success with an account of her Baltimore childhood growing up in the 1960s and a follow-up dealing with her adult marriages and affairs. The merely modest success of her debut novel leads her back to nonfiction and the possibility of a book about grade school classmate Calliope Jenkins. Accused of murdering her infant son, Jenkins spent seven years in prison steadfastly declining to answer any questions about the disappearance and presumed death of her son. Fallows (white) tries to reconnect with three former classmate friends (black) to compare memories of Jenkins and research her story. In the process, she discovers the gulf (partially racial) that separates her memories of events from theirs.

I'd Know You Anywhere I'd Know You Anywhere
HarperCollins Publishers, August 17, 2010

Eliza Benedict cherishes her peaceful, ordinary suburban life with her successful husband and children, thirteen-year-old Iso and eight-year-old Albie. But her tranquillity is shattered when she receives a letter from the last person she ever expects—or wants—to hear from: Walter Bowman. There was your photo, in a magazine. Of course, you are older now. Still, I'd know you anywhere.

In the summer of 1985, when she was fifteen, Eliza was kidnapped by Walter and held hostage for almost six weeks. He had killed at least one girl and Eliza always suspected he had other victims as well. Now on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, Walter seems to be making a heartfelt act of contrition as his execution nears. Though Eliza wants nothing to do with him, she's never forgotten that Walter was most unpredictable when ignored. Desperate to shelter her children from this undisclosed trauma in her past, she cautiously makes contact with Walter. She's always wondered why Walter let her live, and perhaps now he'll tell her—and share the truth about his other victims.

Yet as Walter presses her for more and deeper contact, it becomes clear that he is after something greater than forgiveness. He wants Eliza to remember what really happened that long-ago summer. He wants her to save his life. And Eliza, who has worked hard for her comfortable, cocooned life, will do anything to protect it—even if it means finally facing the events of that horrifying summer and the terrible truth she's kept buried inside.

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