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    THE SUGAR HOUSE by Laura Lippman


    William Morrow, 2000

    It was a senseless killing, a Jane Doe killing. Private investigator Tess Monaghan agrees to take the case as a favor to her father, not because she has much hope of solving it. Still, murder with an unknown victim is strange, especially when the convicted killer ends up dead in a prison brawl. With a little help from her friends, Tess starts to unravel clues that point to something deeper and more sinister than a casual murder by a huffer.

    Wherever she turns, Monaghan runs into a political connection, but not one that makes sense. Even when she uncovers the identity of the victim, the pieces seem disconnected. No one has a motive to kill Jane Doe, and certainly no one would have any reason to kill Henry Dembrow, the young huffer. Although Monaghan doesn't think she's learning anything, she must be getting close--the danger gets personal, her father is blackmailed, and she is threatened.

    Author Laura Lippman (see more reviews of novels by Lippman) has created a fascinating world. Tess is intriguing in herself, and in the family and friends she surrounds herself with. Because they care about her, the reader cares as well. Lippman draws the reader in, making Tess an exciting and important part of their life, someone you almost know. Her descriptions of Baltimore ring true. The political infighting is certainly typical of politics in general and Maryland politics in particular.

    Lippman has crafted a wonderful mystery with convincing characters, a believable plot, evil villains, and a protagonist who brings blue-collar dedication to her job. I highly recommend this mystery.

    Four Stars

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