Summary and book reviews of The Last Place by Laura Lippman

The Last Place

A Tess Monaghan Mystery

By Laura Lippman

The Last Place
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2002,
    341 pages.
    Paperback: Aug 2003,
    432 pages.

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Book Summary

Over the course of six novels featuring Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan, author Laura Lippman has won a mantel full of awards (including the Edgar), consistently resounding critical acclaim ("The best mystery writing around" -- Village Voice), and a well-deserved reputation among readers as one of the very brightest lights in contemporary crime fiction -- a reputation now brilliantly reconfirmed as Tess returns to find a nightmare in the last place she ever thought to look for it.

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.

There are other troubling aspects as well. Apart from the suspicion that each death was the result of domestic violence, nothing else seems to connect them, Five lives -- those of four women and one man -- were destroyed by fire, gunshot, and hit-and-run, and all five cases have gone ice cold. Though Luisa's nonprofit organization hires Tess simply to review old police documents for inconsistencies and investigative blunders, curiosity is soon leading the P.I. off the paper trail.

And it just may get her killed. Tess's search for connecting threads takes her beyond the Charm City limits and into dangerously unfamiliar territory. With the help of a police officer obsessed with bringing a murderer down, she follows scant leads and intuition into the remotest corners of Maryland, where a psychopath can hide as easily in the fabric of a tiny, rough-hewn fishing community as in the alleys and shadows of bustling Baltimore. Straying far from everything that's familiar and safe in her life, Tess is suddenly cast into a terrifying cat-and-mouse game with an ingenious slayer who changes identities as often and effortlessly as clothing. Because a single common link to five senseless murders is beginning to emerge with shocking clarity to tie the loose ends together into one bloody knot...and the link is Tess Monaghan herself.

Chapter One

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Tess Monaghan was sitting outside a bar in the Baltimore suburbs. It was early spring, the mating season, and this bland but busy franchise was proof that birds do it, bees do it, even Baltimore County yuppies in golf pants and Top-Siders do it.

"Kind of a benign hangout for a child molester," Tess said to Whitney Talbot, her oldest friend, her college roomie, her literal partner in crime on a few occasions. "Although it is convenient to several area high schools, as well as Towson University and Goucher."

"Possible child molester," Whitney corrected from the driver's seat of the Suburban. Whitney's vehicles only seemed to get bigger over the years, no matter what the price of gas was doing. "We don't have proof that he knew how young Mercy was when this started. Besides, she's sixteen, Tess. You were having sex at sixteen."

"Yeah, with other sixteen-year-olds. But if he came after your cousin -- "

"Second ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
New York Times Book Review

Spectacular. . . . A fast, cleverly allusive story.

Cleveland Plain Dealer

A major work of suspense.

Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

The Last Place is the first place readers should turn to for a superior story.

Seattle Times

Lippman, reporter for the Baltimore Sun, excels at vivid portraits of her town's offbeat neighborhoods, hangouts and inhabitants. Seen through the eyes of her protagonist--a smart, funny P.I. named Tess Monaghan--Baltimore is never dull.

Houston Chronicle

Laura Lippman in her series featuring Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan just keeps getting better and better

Publishers Weekly

Lippman narrows her circle, drawing predator and victim closer. She contrasts the methods of the privileged with the ways ordinary folk must cope and how disastrous the results can be when the monstrous invades their lives.

Boolist - Connie Fletcher

If Nancy Drew went on performance-enhancing drugs, she'd resemble Tess Monaghan, Lippman's Baltimore-based private eye....A somewhat shaky plot, rescued by Edgar-winning Lippman's wit and intelligence.

Library Journal - Michele Leber

Lippman deftly juggles a sense of foreboding with quotidian details as she spins an engrossing tale, and she captures the essence of other Maryland venues as acutely as she does that of Baltimore. Tess is a standout among female protagonists in mysteries, and this is absolutely first-rate.

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