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An Introduction to Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is a bestselling author of detective fiction, perhaps best known for her books featuring “accidental P.I.” Tess Monaghan.

With the recent publication of Laura’s new Tess Monaghan novel Hush Hush, we asked Angus Cargill, Editorial Director at Faber, to tell us what makes Laura’s work so special.

Over to Angus:

“Laura Lippman was one of those writers I had meant to read for years. I finally did in 2012 when her novel The Innocents came out in the UK. I took the plunge, partly at least, because its initial set-up – a group of childhood friends brought back together as adults to face the bad things that happened in their past –  sounded a little like the opening of Stephen King’s It.

I was blown away by the book – a mesmerising, melancholic, hard to pin down story which both subverted and exceeded the usual expectations of a straightforward crime novel. In fact, was it really a crime novel at all? Either way, I was hooked and pretty soon on to What the Dead Know, an absolute humdinger of a mystery novel about the seeming re-appearance of Heather Bethany who, along with her sister, had vanished from a mall in Baltimore thirty years previously…

Shortly after, and after a nice moment of happenstance at the Harrogate Crime Festival, I got the chance to take Laura’s new novel, And When She Was Good, on to the Faber crime list, and with the lead character it had – a single mother and suburban madam – how the hell could I resist?

Laura’s next novel was the New York Times bestseller After I’m Gone, a gripping story – played out over nearly five decades – about the wife, three daughters and mistress left behind by a numbers runner who suddenly exits in life in late ’70s Baltimore. It was recently nominated for both an LA Times Book Award and the Strand Critics Award, and it’s just come out in paperback in the UK.

The end of After I’m Gone also tantalisingly served notice of where Laura’s work might be headed next, as retired cop Sandy ended up at a ‘row house in Butcher’s Hill’ looking for a job at the office of one Tess Monaghan.

Tess had been the heroine of Laura’s very first novel, Baltimore Blues, back in 1997, the ex-Star reporter turned accidental P.I. who would be the series character she then followed for many books before making a shift into standalones. But now, it seemed, Tess was back on the scene, even while warning Sandy that her work was ‘dull, dull, dull most of the time’.

And so to Laura’s latest novel, Hush Hush – incredibly her 21st book in 18 years – as Tess, now the mother of a young girl, and her new partner Sandy finds themselves embroiled in a case that confronts one of the last great taboos, and every new parent’s nightmare.

It’s a gripping and terrifying read but one that’s balanced, as ever, by this author’s gift for character and empathy. And, as evidenced by her memorable appearance at Harrogate last summer with Belinda Bauer, she really is a force of nature as a writer – one whose books have an urgent, searching and seemingly inexhaustible drive to them (perhaps appropriately for someone who worked for so long as a reporter).

So here’s to Laura Lippman and to Tess Monaghan, still out there and still fighting the good fight.”

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