Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Girl in the Green Raincoat

I missed The Girl in the Green Raincoat when it was serialized in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.  I haven't read any of the serials, actually - I never seem to get in on the first chapter and I hate starting in the middle.  If I had read the serial, though, I might have known before reading Life Sentences that Lippman had decided to stop writing about Tess.

The Girl in the Green Raincoat starts with Tess attempting to adjust to bed rest.  When she first discovered she was pregnant, she also discovered that it was a great 'cover' for surveillance.  Who's going to expect a pregnant woman to tail a suspect, and if anyone did notice her, well, they'd just ask baby questions.  That ends when a celebratory lunch with her friend and sometime accomplice Whitney ends with a dash to the emergency room where Tess is diagnosed with preeclampsia.  On bed rest, with little to do but worry about her baby and her business, Tess tries to pass the time by watching the dog walkers pass her house on their way to the path through the woods.  She focuses on the most regular walker, a young woman in a green raincoat walking a greyhound in a matching garment.  

One day, Tess sees the dog running - alone.  What else would an immobilized PI do but investigate the woman's disappearance?  She's hampered, of course, by the fact that she can't leave her sofa, but she does have her laptop and her assistant Mrs. Blossom (little old ladies who knit on park benches are even less likely to be identified as detectives than pregnant women are), and Whitney is always willing to play Nancy Drew.  They discover that the missing woman's husband has been married twice before - and both wives died suspiciously.  Lippman wrote a tightly plotted mystery with an unexpected but well-supported solution, and also fits in several subplots (one per chapter, several involving love stories) in 158 crisply written pages.  It's not the typical Tess Monaghan mystery, but it's a nice way to end the series.

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