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Hush Hush: A Tess Monaghan Novel


Hush Hush: A Tess Monaghan Novel

The pace of Laura Lippman's latest Tess Monaghan novel, HUSH HUSH, is a bit slower than many crime stories, and much of the important action occurs a decade earlier. But none of that mars how enjoyable the book is or keeps Lippman from letting her protagonist shine.

This time around, Tess and her new investigative partner, “Sandy” Sanchez, are hired by her aunt's husband, Tyner Gray, to look into security for a woman named Melisandre Harris Dawes. Dawes is infamous in Baltimore for having murdered her infant daughter 12 years ago. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and shortly thereafter left the country, living in Africa and then England. Back now in Baltimore, she is hoping to reconcile with her two teenage daughters, Alanna and Ruby. The case was brutal and tragic, and Dawes is a monied ex-lawyer accustomed to getting her way and exerting her social and physical power. Still, Tess, as the mother of a three-year-old daughter, cannot help but be drawn to the case in unexpected ways and find universals in the trenches of motherhood.

"Lippman's fans have been eagerly awaiting the return of Tess Monaghan, and this thoughtful and subty provocative 12th installment is sure to make them happy."

Assessing Dawes' security needs is an easy task for Tess, but more difficult is assessing Gray's relationship to Dawes. They once dated, but how close are they now? She also questions Dawes' sincerity in wanting to rebuild her relationship with her daughters, especially as she has hired a documentarian to make a film about her and has been less than forthcoming with some of the recorded interviews. Readers have not just Tess’ perspective but that of the filmmaker, Harmony Burns, as well. We are also privy to some of Dawes' point of view and that of her daughters, though Lippman wisely keeps those perspectives limited and enigmatic. Dawes is an immensely unlikable character, and the nature of her responsibility in her baby daughter's death is constantly called into question. But, over the course of the novel, her ex-husband's culpability becomes an issue as well, and the exact role in Dawes' physical and mental state remains a mystery when he is found dead in the home they once shared.

Just as gripping as the story of the dysfunctional and scarred Dawes family is the story of Tess Monaghan as a loving yet weary, frenzied and exhausted mother of a preschooler and partner to a wonderful yet particular man. Lippman's portrayal of a new-ish mother is spot-on as Tess is doubtful of her parenting, tired and harried, and totally in love with her daughter, Carla Scout. The details of contemporary parenting --- such as concerns about food quality, screen time, sleep and child care for working parents --- are well captured. And it is Tess’ reality as a parent juxtaposed with (and at times similar to) Dawes' that makes HUSH HUSH such a balanced, engaging and successful thriller.

Lippman's fans have been eagerly awaiting the return of Tess Monaghan, and this thoughtful and subtly provocative 12th installment is sure to make them happy. While the detective work is basic and the danger mostly light, catching up with Tess is enjoyable and the insight into her life and feelings absorbing. Those unfamiliar with the series won't be lost or confused, though after HUSH HUSH, they most likely will run out to get the 11 previous books with one of American literature's most interesting and irresistible protagonists.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on February 26, 2015

Hush Hush: A Tess Monaghan Novel
by Laura Lippman

  • Publication Date: September 22, 2015
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0062083430
  • ISBN-13: 9780062083432