Private Investigator Tess Monaghan is back in Laura Lippman’s Another Thing to Fall, the tenth book in the popular series. The book starts out with a series of mishaps, the end result of which is that Tess is hired to protect Selene Waites, a 20-year-old actress with an agenda. She is the star of Mann of Steel, a miniseries shooting on location in Baltimore. The residents of Baltimore aren’t exactly thrilled to have Ms. Waites and crew around, and there have been a series of minor mishaps around the set. As Selene has just been nominated for a Golden Globe, buzz about the miniseries is skyrocketing. A ruthless person would only have to take her out in order to shut down the entire production.
However, Tess is in for more than she bargained for. Selene isn’t exactly a willing protectee – she resents the idea of a bodyguard hampering her lifestyle. There is also the matter of Wilbur Grace, a man who hanged himself found with pictures of Selene around his apartment, and the police believe that he may have been a stalker. When a crew member is murdered in the production office, all hell really breaks loose for Tess. She finds herself juggling multiple investigations, all while trying to keep a tight leash on Selene.
While enjoyable, Another Thing to Fall doesn’t quite measure up to Lippman’s previous works. The story is solid, but the suspense just isn’t really there. Usually her books are the types that the reader stays up late into the night to finish. This book just doesn’t seem to have that sense of urgency. While curious about what was going to happen, I was happy to put the book down to go to sleep at a decent hour and just finish it later.
Of course, Lippman’s prose is masterful, as always. She writes very well, and that shines through this book. Her descriptions are vivid, especially those of Baltimore and the inner workings of the film set. Lippman’s husband is a producer for HBO’s The Wire, and that familiarity is evident. The book is obviously well researched, a glimpse into the inner workings of how a set actually operates. It’s also very funny, which is always a plus no matter what kind of novel.
The book marginalizes some regular characters in the Tess Monaghan series, including Crow (who appears briefly) and Tess’s aunt, who is nowhere to be found. However, Whitney and Lloyd are present, which will delight fans of the series. There is also the welcome introduction of another secondary character, Mrs. Blossom, who will most likely appear in future Tess Monaghan installments.
Overall, Another Thing to Fall is a good book, but it just doesn’t measure up to Lippman’s previous works. She has taught her readers to expect greatness, and unfortunately, even good just doesn’t seem to be satisfying!