This is the eighth book in the Tess Monaghan detective series, and rather anomalous. The emphasis in this book is not on Tess, now 33, although she of course plays a (minor) role. Rather, it is on her client, Mark Rubin, and his life as an Orthodox Jew: what does it mean to live in this fashion? I would classify this as a “social” crime novel.
Rubin comes to Tess requesting that she find his wife and three children, who have disappeared. The police have determined there was no foul play, and thus will not take on the case. But Rubin can’t believe his wife would have left him voluntarily; he wants to find out what really happened.
Much of the story concerns Tess’s efforts to understand the insulated community of her client’s world, so that she can ascertain what may or may not have happened. She also sees it as a chance to find out information about her own background: Theresa Esther Weinstein Monaghan is half Jewish and half Irish Catholic, but without any real knowledge of either heritage. Now, she has the opportunity to find out more.
Interspersed with Mark’s story, we follow that of his wife Natalie (formerly Natasha) and her three children, as they go on a journey with consequences they have not anticipated. In particular, we get to know Isaac, the oldest son, who is brave and loyal and smart enough to provide lots of unwitting assistance to Tess and Mark.
Discussion: Tess goes through a number of reactions in this book. At first, she is hostile toward this orthodox man, finding him harsh and rigid. As they get more comfortable with one another and let down their defenses, they discover that they can actually accept and even like each other. It’s a lovely minuet.
Lippman also nicely blends in one of the characters, Police Detective Nancy Porter, from her standalone novel, Every Single Thing. It’s a fun touch for readers who have been following her books in order.
In this book too, Tess for the first time taps into the new national internet-driven network of female investigators called SnoopSisters. Set up by Gretchen O’Brien, a character from a previous book, this network provides indispensable help for Tess in locating Natalie. Lippman includes the emails of this group as part of the text, providing a fun look at the interactions of these women.
Evaluation: This novel has a great deal of insight to offer into a number of aspects of different cultures about which the reader may be unaware. Although we don’t spend much time examining Tess and her life, we gain a lot in the trade.
Published by William Morrow, 2004
Anthony Award Nominee for Best Novel (2005)
Agatha Award Nominee for Best Novel (2004)
Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel (2005)