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Book Review: Another Thing to Fall: A Novel (Tess Monaghan Mysteries) by Laura Lippman

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Another Thing to Fall is a mystery that takes place in Baltimore on the set of a television show being filmed there. Part comedy, part tragedy, part behind-the-scenes expose, it's a book that has promise but never quite brings it all together in a satisfying package.

Tess Monaghan, private investigator, is out for her morning rowing session on the river, when she literally runs into a TV crew trying to catch the dawn light for a scene. After being fished out of the water, she waits for her clothes to dry and watches the activity of director Flip Tumulty and his young assistant like a visitor to the zoo.

When Flip, son of a famous Baltimore-bred filmmaker, hears Tess is a PI, he decides to hire her to guard the female starlet playing the lead. Strange things have been happening on the set, and the show "bible" — the book that lays out the whole series — was found among the possessions of a local man who committed suicide. Against her better judgment, but for double her usual fee, Tess says yes, and the novel is set in motion.

Author Laura Lippman is a former journalist in Baltimore, where all her stories are set. We find out in an endnote that her husband was a producer on the best television show ever made, The Wire, hence her inspiration for writing a novel about a television show that films in the city. She provides the reader with insider views into the writers' office, the production office, and the sets built inside an empty warehouse – always of interest to fans of the small screen.

Unfortunately, Another Thing to Fall is rife with clichés. The names, the stars, the conniving and striving – none of it is convincing. The story also has a less-than-compelling construction. There is a surprise at the end, but the perpetrator of the major crimes and his story are well known to the reader before Tess ever hears of him. Her previous novel, What the Dead Know, was not in the Tess Monaghan series and was much more interesting and real.

Even with its weaknesses, Another Thing to Fall moves along crisply and has welcome elements of humor. Fans of Tess Monaghan will most likely enjoy this seventh addition to the series. Those reading for the first time will not be lost. As mysteries go, it is different and has a lightness to it that could make it a good vacation read.

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About Nancy Fontaine

Nancy Fontaine is a librarian and freelance writer living in New Hampshire with her husband, two cats, and every four years during presidential primary season, the national press.