Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Girl in the Green Raincoat, by Laura Lippman

The title character in this novella catches the eye of Laura Lippman's intrepid detective Tess Monaghan, who is on bedrest while awaiting the birth of her first child (yes, Tess and Crow are having a baby--who would have predicted that?). Each day, the girl walks her similarly attired miniature greyhound in the park across from Tess' home; one day, the little dog dashes out of the park by itself. The girl in the green raincoat does not reappear.

In homage to Rear Window and The Daughter of Time (which I am unfamiliar with), Tess applies her considerable detecting skills to find out what happened to the missing woman, using her best friend Whitney and her colleague Mrs. Blossom to do the field work. They discover that the missing woman was the third wife of a man whose first two wives died suspiciously, as did a one-time fiancee (who turns out to be the third wife's older sister).

Hormones, inactivity, and worry may be having an effect on Tess' reasoning skills, as she gets a few things wrong in the course of this short, but amusing book. Nonetheless, the mystery is eventually solved, Tess' daughter is born, and we can look forward to what learning what happens when Tess becomes a working mom in the next title in Lippman's series.

One interesting thing about the book is that it was first published in serial form in The New York Times Magazine, and Lippman worked to structure each chapter to not only contribute to the unraveling of the central mystery but also to tell a "mini-story" of its own. It's cleverly done and reinforces my belief that Lippman is one of the best writers working in the mystery genre.

Favorite passage:
Also, there was a monkey. This struck Tess as the most trenchant bit of film criticism that she had ever heard from her father, something that could equal Andrew Sarris's auteur theory. She would run this past Lloyd, the film student, the Tess Monaghan theory of awfulness in movies, summed up by one line: Also, there was a monkey.

No comments:

Post a Comment