Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman

Oline H. Cogdill
South Florida Sun-Sentinel (MCT)

Laura Lippman continues to excel at contemporary mysteries that are, at the same time, well-grounded in the old-fashioned private detective genre.

Another Thing to Fall

Publisher: Morrow
ISBN: 9780061128875
Author: Laura Lippman
Price: $24.95
Length: 325
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2008-03

On a movie set, everything is negotiated. Whether it's deciding who delivers the director's coffee, an actor vying for an extra line or an assistant looking to move up in the business. No matter how inconsequential the chore might seem, it all comes down to power.

In Another Thing to Fall, Baltimore private detective Tess Monaghan learns that even reality is a commodity to be negotiated when she agrees to take a job as a bodyguard for young actress.

In her 15th novel -- and 10th book in the series -- Laura Lippman continues to excel at contemporary mysteries that are, at the same time, well-grounded in the old-fashioned private detective genre. Her books are as much mysteries as they are novels about Baltimore, filled with characters who don't seem fictional but realistic and often flawed humans.

Lippman set an incredible standard for her work in last year's mesmerizing What the Dead Know, an intricate, stand-alone thriller that explored the fragility of family and memory. As she does in her series, Another Thing to Fall takes a little lighter approach in tone. But that does not mean that Another Thing to Fall's plot is flimsy. Lippman's intricate plotting, attention to detail, her insight into human vanities and crisp writing shine in this book.

A thirst for power, skewered realities and a person's need to receive credit for their deeds permeate Another Thing to Fall. Sometimes that power is in getting credit for making copies of a script; other times it is in writing the script. And the business of making films shows Tess that one's perception of events often duels with other's view of the truth.

Each person has a different ambition and Lippman makes us wonder what's worse: Having your dreams shattered or never having dreams?

Hollywood has again come to Baltimore, this time in the form of Mann of Steel, a big-budget TV miniseries where the drama is definitely off-camera.

Lippman, who is married to The Wire's creator David Simon, makes it clear that Mann of Steel has nothing in common with the recently ended (and brilliant) HBO series, which put all the drama of life on the streets on the screen.

Tess reluctantly agrees to look after Selene Waites, a 20-year-old rising star whose party-girl image is eclipsing her acting. Tess finds Selene "a mercurial being that was all id ... determined to control anything she could, because, on some level, she sensed that she controlled nothing."

Selene recently was the target of a stalker who committed suicide. The TV has been plagued by vandalism, union threats and bad publicity.

While Tess maneuvers around clues to find out what really is going on, the bigger minefield is the myriad egos that abound. An aging and vapid leading man, writers with secret agendas, assistants with side businesses and pop tart Selene each have an agenda. "Perhaps Hollywood had only two channels on its dial -- abstemious self-denial and wretched excess," wonders Tess.

Well-timed humor, trivia about the movies that will appeal to the casual filmgoer as well as cinema buffs and a look at Baltimore's past and present meld seamlessly into the sturdy plot. A side story in which a fledgling private eye tries her sleuthing tactics not only is quite funny but also adds texture to the plot.

Lippman's confident storytelling and her compelling view of contemporary concerns are showcased in Another Thing to Fall.


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