The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman

January 10, 2011
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The Girl in the Green Raincoat
Laura Lippman

Avon
01-10-11
Hardcover/176 pages
ISBN: 978-0061938368
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". . . homage to Hitchcock. …well-written and riveting. . ."

Real world mystery with authenticity and memorable characters.

Tess Monaghan is in confinement, an old-fashioned word for being held hostage by her own unborn child and forced to watch the world from her bed. Tess is in her final trimester and high risk. In order to bring her child to full term, she must remain quiet and in bed. At least she can look out on the world through the sunroom windows and watch other people walk their dogs, something she once complained about and now would give anything to be able to do. That is when she noticed the girl in the green raincoat walking her miniature greyhound, and when the girl disappeared, leaving her dog running loose.

From her bed, Tess organizes her friends and co-worker to look into the girl’s disappearance and finding an unlucky man who has had two wives and one girlfriend die under mysterious circumstances, a man who will sue at the drop of a hat and who is strangely unconcerned about his wife’s seeming disappearance. He tells one of Tess’s operatives that she is on a business trip, but, even from a distance, Tess can tell he is lying. Even though she is bed bound, Tess isn’t about to let a little preeclampsia keep her from nailing the Bluebeard and finding girl, if only to return her highly strung dog, now in Tess’s possession.

At first glance, Laura Lippman’s latest Tess Monaghn mystery seems insufficient to sink one’s teeth into; that would be an incorrect assumption. From page one, sentence one, Lippman engages the reader’s interest and keeps it. The Girl in the Green Raincoat is a deceptively simple plot, one that Alfred Hitchcock made famous in Rear Window, and the movie is mentioned. Even the characters are aware the circumstances are a bit absurd and melodramatic.

A woman dressed in green walks her dog at the park every day and then one day she walks into the woods and only the dog, dragging its green leash, walks, or rather runs, out. What Lippman does so well is to turn that simple plot on it head, adds complex and interesting characters, heats up the relationships and leads the readers willingly through what could have been a mundane, done-it-before kind of homage to Hitchcock. Tess and her friends and family are anything but mundane and The Girl in the Green Raincoat is more than an homage; it is well written and riveting fiction with a real world sensibility.

Not having read any of the other Tess Monaghan mysteries is not a problem here. Ample back story is provided in an unobtrusive way and the writing is smooth as silk and just as slick. Tess chafing at the confinement and prey to hormones and doubts, about her maternal instincts and the future of her relationship, is authentic and the recurring cast of characters wonderfully three-dimensional and eminently seductive, leaving this reader wanting to know more and looking forward to reading all the Tess Monaghan mysteries.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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