Book Review: Hush, Hush – Laura Lippman

hush-hush-laura-lippmanTitle: Hush Hush
Author: Laura Lippman
ISBN: 9780062083425
Pages: 320
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Mystery
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Tess Monaghan is at her wits’ end. She loves her daughter, but can barely keep up with the busy schedule of being a working mom, not to mention the extra bills that are coming her way. As a result, she takes a case she wouldn’t normally be interested in: A controversial woman, Melisandre, with a past has returned home to reunite with her estranged family, and Tess has been asked by her friend and mentor Tyner to evaluate her security. As Tess digs deeper into Melisandre’s past, she discovers things that intrigue and disturb her and begins to wonder about the complexities of motherhood.


Let’s start with this: If you haven’t read a Tess Monaghan novel, then Hush Hush probably isn’t the place to start. This is a complex series, full of interweaving characters and plots. Can this novel stand alone? Yes, probably. You can get the story, be horrified by Melisandre’s antics, wonder about the truth behind the central plot, and all in all enjoy the book. And if that niggling feeling that you’re actually missing a lot of the story doesn’t bother you, than you should do that. But as a person who enjoys the richness of characters built over multiple books, who likes seeing how Tess is coping with motherhood after years of waffling commitment to Crow, who has hungered for a another installment in this series, forced to be content with tantalizing glimpses of Tess in Monaghan’s other novels, I’d say that this book needs to be appreciated as part of the larger series it has a home within.

Clearly, I’m a huge Tess Monaghan (and Laura Lippman) fan. So now the question becomes: Was Hush Hush worth the wait? My answer is definitely a yes. It’s never a doubt that Lippman is going to do a great job with her characters, taking them in fresh and unexpected directions, and of course she does that in this novel. But the real fascination of this book is in Melisandre; in her thoughts, actions, and the truth behind what she did all those years ago.

Through Melisandre, Lippman turns Hush Hush into a psychological novel. I hesitate to call it a thriller, because the Tess novels have always had a laid back vibe, one that this book shares. That’s a good thing; it allows Lippman to take her time unfolding Tess’s discoveries, while also focusing on secondary characters and storylines. But the narrative always comes back to this mysterious woman. What hold does she have over Tyner? What is she really doing back in Baltimore?

If you’ve been a fan of Tess Monaghan’s for as long as I have, don’t hesitate to pick up Hush Hush; it will, as always, leave you clamoring for more, but Lippman’s written a great novel here. It’s an entertaining, suspenseful read that leaves thought-provoking questions in its wake. If your book club doesn’t mind missing out on some character development, the juxtaposition between Tess and Melisandre would make for a great and poignant discussion on motherhood.

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Book Review: After I’m Gone – Laura Lippman

After I'm Gone coverTitle: After I’m Gone
Author: Laura Lippman
ISBN: 9780062083395
Pages: 352
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Literary Mystery
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


In 1976, a bookie and gambler named Felix Brewer disappeared from the Baltimore area, leaving behind his wife, three daughters, and the imminent threat of jail time. Ten years later, his mistress, Julie, disappears as well. The assumption that Julie went to join Felix is disproved when, decades later, her body is discovered. Sandy Sanchez, a consultant for the police department, decides to take on this cold case, digging into Felix’s old business, his wife, Bambi, and their daughters in order to uncover what really happened to Julie.

Snapshot Review:

A smart and sharp novel, After I’m Gone takes the art of literary mystery to new heights. Though the premise of the book is centered around Julie’s murder, it’s the women in this novel—Julie, Bambi, and Bambi’s three daughters—that shine here, turning this into a gripping, character-driven novel.

Full Review:

After I’m Gone is a gorgeously written literary mystery, with five deep, thoughtful women at its core. Though it’s billed as a mystery novel, this is a character study more than anything else. It’s quiet, with small earthquakes rather than shattering ones; Bambi has the world at her fingertips in one moment, then loses everything in the next. It’s a close look at how circumstances can change people, and the difficult relationships between women. Lippman did an excellent job with her characters; each of these women gets a chance to narrate, and it’s fascinating to look into their heads and see how different, yet how much the same, they are.

Once again, Baltimore takes center stage in After I’m Gone, as it almost always does in Lippman’s novels. The city has a life of its own, reverberating underneath the surface of this book. It’s gritty, yet you can feel Lippman’s love for her city through her words and careful descriptions. Readers who enjoy novels with a sense of place will absolutely appreciate what Lippman has done with this novel, and her longtime fans will love the familiar character cameos that occur in the book.

The novel is told over a long period of time, jumping back and forth to fully flesh out each of the characters and their situations. It’s how we get to hear from Julie, though she’s dead when After I’m Gone begins. With the changes in narrators and time frames, this could be confusing, but it’s a testament to Lippman’s skill that these jumps only serve to enhance the story. She does a great job differentiating both her narrators and the time periods.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful, contemplative read that still manages to move at a quick pace and be suspenseful, you should absolutely pick up After I’m Gone. Lippman has incredible skill when it comes to literary mysteries; she does such a great job with her characters that they become the driving force of the story, rather than the plot. I know fans of hers have been waiting eagerly for this book, but those new to Lippman should also consider picking up this gripping standalone novel.

Other books by Laura Lippman:

Standalone novels

And When She Was Good
I’d Know You Anywhere

Life Sentences
The Most Dangerous Thing

Tess Monaghan series

Baltimore Blues
Charm City
Butchers Hill
In a Strange City
The Last Place
By a Spider’s Thread
No Good Deeds
Another Thing to Fall
The Girl in the Green Raincoat

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