SEASONAL WORK

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Lippman fans will be glad to hear that the first two stories in her second collection of short fiction—after Hardly Knew Her (2008)—feature Tess Monaghan, now-retired private investigator and star of a dozen mystery novels. The first, the title story, is about a long con featuring the wise child of a grifter dad; the second is a very Baltimorean story set in a children’s bookstore with an ongoing shoplifting problem. The third story features a couple that insiders will recognize as Tess’ parents in the years before she was born. Though Judith Monaghan is “The Everyday Housewife,” her powers of observation and interest in the lives of others presage her daughter’s talents—as one character points out, “It’s a thin line between gossip and espionage.” The remaining nine stories take on a sparkling array of everyday cheaters, liars, egotists, and sexist pigs. In “Slow Burner,” a perfectly pleasant high school teacher “has been spying on [her husband] for so long it’s hard to remember what she might know and what she can’t know.” But as her students point out during their mythology unit, “Hades is a kidnapper, plain and simple. Why should Persephone be punished for eating a few seeds?…To teenagers, the gods are like adults, taking themselves much too seriously, demanding respect they have not earned, changing the rules as it suits them while torturing the puny mortals in their care.” Oof. As the author explains in an interesting afterword, the stories—four of which, she proudly notes, do not a include a dead body—were written between 2007 and 2019 and had to be updated slightly to conform to current standards. Sensitivity, however, only goes so far with a crime novelist. When the pandemic comes along in the last story, “Just One More,” it only makes murder more acceptable. “Hundreds of people were dying every day. What was one more body on the pile?”

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