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Three and one half moon gifWilliam Morrow (Hardcover), ISBN 0380978172
Laura Lippman's reputation grows daily. With two Edgars, an Agatha and a Macavity award under her belt, Lippman continues to demonstrate she knows both how to write and what the public likes.

Book: Laura Lippman, Sugar HouseIn Sugar House, the fifth book in the Tess Monaghan series, Tess returns to her Baltimore hometown after a sojourn in Texas to rescue erstwhile boyfriend, Crow. In "Charm City" (a.k.a. Baltimore, Md.) Christmas nears, and Tess would like to do nothing more than wrap up her year, go look at the lights, eat dinner with friends and family, and just relax. But when a family friend asks Tess to investigate the prison death of the friend's brother, a convicted murderer, Tess finds more layers to this puzzling case than in a nine-layer dip.

First, Tess must find out the identity of the dead girl, buried in a pauper's grave as an ignominious "Jane Doe." The only clues: a rambling story from a teenage Book: Laura Lippman, In Big Troublegirl (rumored to be a pathological liar) and vague evidence from the autopsy report. With the help of Tess' friend Whitney, socialite and former fellow reporter, Tess begins to unravel a complicated web of deceit, cover-ups and scandal that implicate politicians, civilians and even her own family, endangering herself and those she loves in the process.

Once again, Laura Lippman proves she deserves her awards. Starting at the intriguing prologue and all the way to the final pages, Sugar House entranced me. From Tess herself to Sukey, the reluctant informant, and various other minor but integral characters, Laura Lippman carefully and almost casually creates real people -- so lifelike that Book: Laura Lippman, Baltimore Bluesyou fully expect them to pass you on the street. Lippman's precise prose and evocative narrative invite readers to share Tess's world while drawing them deeper into a well-crafted story.

Lippman's research about Baltimore and its surroundings shows in her careful attention to detail. She skillfully integrates facts, information and tidbits without ever throwing the reader off or slowing down her tale. Many authors never learn this important skill, but once again Lippman proves herself a master of the technique. An excellent novel, Sugar House deserves to be Tess Monaghan's hardcover debut.

Maria Y. Lima

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