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The Sugar House (Tess Monaghan #5)

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  2,999 Ratings  ·  194 Reviews
New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan must solve one of the most baffling murders in her PI career.

When Tess Monaghan agrees to talk to Ruthie Dembrow, she senses she’ll regret it. If there’s anything Tess has learned in her work both as a newspaper reporter and then as a PI, it’s to trust your instincts. Still, she can’t deny she’s intrigued when
ebook, 400 pages
Published March 17th 2009 by William Morrow (first published 2000)
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Book # 5 in the Tess Monaghan series has the former reporter turned private investigator taking on a job as a favor to her Dad. Ruthie is a waitress whose younger brother Henry died in prison after confessing to killing a girl. The girl was never identified, but Ruthie thinks that perhaps her brother was killed because of something to do with that Jane Doe. So she asks Tess to find out who the girl was. But the more she digs, the more Tess is puzzled by the intricate web of connections that seem ...more
Aug 11, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really excellent entry in this series. It feels like all the groundwork Lippman laid is paying off: Tess's family, love life, & career are firing. It's not that they're running smoothly. There's turbulence on two of those fronts. But it all feels very organic.

For example: I remember being turned off by Tess's vanity early on. Learning about her struggles with an eating disorder eventually lent some perspective to that view. Here, those seeds that Lippman planted & nurtured bear fruit,
Dec 14, 2009 Spuddie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review actually applies to the audio version--I can't find the correct one listed.

#5 Tess Monaghan mystery set in Baltimore, MD. Having returned from Texas with boyfriend Crow in tow, Tess is beginning to settle into somewhat of a routine with her PI business and her personal life. She is asked by her father to take on a case for an old friend. Ruthie wants her to find out the identity of the Jane Doe her glue-sniffing, addict brother was sent to prison for killing, albeit accidentally in a
Lola Wallace
Dec 26, 2013 Lola Wallace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
all I want from a mystery novel is interesting complicated characters, suspense/confusion/creepiness, and a vast conspiracy that goes all the way to the top (or Annapolis, as the case may be), exposing the ruses of power and how individual human lives get swept up in their machinations. and while misogyny is part of that, I would prefer that fiction not revel in the details of chopped up and/or violated women's bodies. this book fit all those requirements and it was fun to read. that's about all ...more
This is not the first book I've read in the series, but I don't think it was my favorite. I like Tess, but she felt a little flat to me in this book. Also this book jumped around a lot, from plot, to plot, to another plot, and sometimes it was hard to follow. It also didn't always make sense, things were brought up and then never really expanded upon. Basically this was a very plot driven book, and I appreciate a more character driven story.
Continuing on my no heavy lifting spree, this is the best of the Tess Monaghan books so far. A good mystery with some interesting complexity, some ingenuity, some teamwork and threat. The family relationships were less obvious and discussed here but they were a solid backdrop to the story without being distracting. The corruption and dealings were, perhaps, not as gritty or as far reaching as other authors might create, but enough to keep the plot tight, even if Tess seems to be as surprised at ...more
Nov 14, 2014 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have truly enjoyed listening to these novels ... up till this book. The reader switched and it was truly painful to listen to the person who was the narrator for the audible book. It says she was an award winning 'reader' and that may be. However, she was difficult to understand at times and her dialects for each and every character were so distracting when trying to listen to this, it greatly detracted from the story line. I stopped about 3 discs into the book. If I pick up the series again, ...more
Jane Dugger
Couldn't put it down! Great addition to the series.
Sep 18, 2015 Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A decent story w/excellent narration by my favorite female narrator, Barbara Rosenblatt.
Ned Arick
May 31, 2015 Ned Arick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Glad to meet Tess in Baltimore

I'm a Maryland boy...Born and raised in Chevy Chase, in Somerset, about a quarter mile from the Western Ave. Washington DC line. So my town was DC. My baseball team was the Senators (American League). My football team was/is the Redskins (Colts & Ravins would've been more acceptable PC). So, for a Maryland boy (attempting) to grow up in the1940's & '50's, focused on the thriving, growing bureaucracy of our nation's capitol and it's sports teams, Baltimore mi
Rohn Federbush
Apr 09, 2014 Rohn Federbush rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Sugar House, by Jean Scheffler is a carefully crafted and rollicking history of Detroit’s rise to fame. A mixture of childhood insights into the lives of adults develops into a heart-wrenching tale of survival decisions. The author’s sources deliver a great feel for a time and place out of reach, Polonia, Detroit. Joe, the eight-year-old, is captured with his big heart and sense of adventure, a Huckleberry Finn for Detroiters. Elaborate details of city life, buildings, home owners, religious ...more
Nov 29, 2014 Carol rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first read of the Tess Monaghan Series. In this fifth mystery of the Tess Monaghan detective series, she is now thirty, with plenty of business in her private detective agency, and back together with her boyfriend “Crow.” She takes on a case as a favor to her father, who is friends with the client, Ruthie Dembrow. Ruthie wants to know what really happened a year before when her brother Henry allegedly killed a nameless girl and went to prison. Henry himself was killed just a month aft ...more
Amy Malone
Really, Sugar House deserves a 3.5. Lippman as she travels through the Tess Monaghan series grows as a writer, treating her characters with more finesse and touching upon more serious themes. Here, in a murder mystery, she addresses lost children, children who grow up without something, perhaps enough love, and become something else, in this case victims of eating disorders. The book is by no means a diatribe or even an in-depth loo, but kudos to Lippman for even going there.

Quote: "'Updike does
Mar 29, 2015 Chel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Laura Lippman writes mysteries set in Baltimore. Some of them are the Tess Monaghan series, and some are free-standing one shots. I tend to like the free-standing ones best, but the series is reliably good, and this one is up there with the others. It has a couple angles that made it particularly interesting to me. One was the light handed exploration of body image and eating disorder issues that plays through at several levels; the other was involvement of Tess's family, several members of whic ...more
Mar 19, 2014 Martha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, when life gets in the way of my reading enjoyment, I turn to series mysteries. It all started with the Trixie Belden series back in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Laura Lippman's Tess Monaghan satisfies while I wait/hope for the next installment of Kinsey Milhone or V.I. Warshawski. Tess gets smarter with each installment, and Lippman provides many little details about her home city of Baltimore.

Lippman reveals how widely she reads with the little literary tidbits that season her text. I've smi
Enjoyed this book. Tess is a developed character with a back story, but not complicated. The remaining main characters within her circle--her parents, Crow--less developed but there's enough meat on their bones to make them interesting. The story wound through political corruption, anorexia, and--to a lesser extent--depravity. One thing I like about Lippman's books is that she doesn't do graphic; and isn't it amazing how she can still write a good story without blood, guts, and gore. Many writer ...more
Deanna Schreffler
So you can read about the actual plot in several other reviews that hit the nail on the head, I just want to add that yes the first few chapters started out a little slow (I was prepared for this in reading a review), but once the story got rolling (which wasn't painfully deep into the book) it was impossible to put down. This is my second Laura Lippmann book and I much enjoy her characters and their wit. A great plot followed by a twist of an ending with a dash of humor here and there, I give i ...more
Nov 07, 2014 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe one of my favorites so far. Not too far flung and more what I expect of a private eye. Tess works a case where there are far too many unfortunate deaths. I didn't quite buy the local crime boss who owned the bar and their 'minions'. However, I liked the angle involving Tess' dad. Crow was there but in background role this time. Whitney is back and maybe being set up to be more involved in Tess' work? This story almost seemd like now Tess and those significant others in her life are set so ...more
Gwen P
Sep 21, 2015 Gwen P rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason I had it in my head ever since finishing #4 that I was done with this series. But when I reread the description of #5 a few weeks ago when I was looking for a new book to read, I couldn't remember what I had against Tess Monaghan. So, I decided to give her another try, and I'm glad I did.
This story returns the action to Baltimore (after a foray into Texas to retrieve long lost boyfriend Crow in the last book) and settles back into a groove I was afraid might have been lost. Tess
Apr 01, 2014 Bethany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Man, I love these books. I'm not really sure what it is about them; I've always sort of been the most casual of mystery readers, flying through one when I happened to pick up one of my mom's, but not really seeking them out. I've certainly never read a mystery series in order, moving from one to another with zeal...well, I have, but that was, like, Nancy Drew/The Boxcar Children/The Bobbsey Twins... Actually, maybe. I am a natural lover of mystery series, but I convinced myself at some point tha ...more
Apr 06, 2011 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this fifth mystery of the Tess Monaghan detective series, Tess is now thirty, with plenty of business in her private detective agency, and back together with her boyfriend “Crow.” She takes on a case as a favor to her father, who is friends with the client, Ruthie Dembrow. Ruthie wants to know what really happened a year before when her brother Henry allegedly killed a nameless girl and went to prison. Henry himself was killed just a month after going to prison in somewhat suspicious circumst ...more
Apr 20, 2013 Laurel-Rain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tess Monaghan's roots are in Baltimore, where she grew up in one of the blue collar neighborhoods. As a P.I., she has traversed most of the neighborhoods and is familiar with their history. She and her father are close, almost like pals, so when he asks for a favor, she obliges. An old friend of his, Ruthie Denbrow, wants to know why her brother Henry was killed in his early weeks in prison after confessing to a crime.

The crime, referred to as a Jane Doe murder, because the victim's identity has
Sandy Vaughan
Jun 23, 2011 Sandy Vaughan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened
Their summary:

Jess Monaghan's life is back on course. She is beginning to make a name for herself as a PI, she's even banking good money. And then her father asks her a favour: to investigate the death in prison of a friend's brother convicted of killing an unidentified girl, otherwise known as 'Jane Doe'. Tess's search leads her to 'the Sugar House', a brutal institution where she discovers Jane Doe's real identity. And then Tess's father begs her to drop the case ...It is not until her parent'
The book jacket says that Laura Lippman has, "been awarded every major prize in crime fiction." I find found it hard to believe!
"The Sugar House" seemed to be adolescent and even boring at times. And I love crime fiction! From Christie to Poe, from Patricia Cromwell to Janet Evanovich--I love them! Not to mention the writers of historical crime fiction--whom I greatly admire when their history is spot on while they still write a captivating mystery. I say all of this just to illustrate that I en
Jan 18, 2016 stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: laura, any fan of this genre
Recommended to stephanie by: series rec by a.
yes, out of order (ten books in the tess series! so exciting!) but the earliest one i could find at the library.

so this is about politics, in the twisted kind of way only local politics really can be (so right on), and oh, this one had some great twists. it's got your neighborhood drug lord, your corrupt politician, a jane doe, a prison stabbing, and nothing leading to anything. not to mention the whole creepy institution thing they had going on.

i have to say, a lot of the psychological descrip
Jul 06, 2011 Lani rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 29, 2015 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a confession to make. My guilty pleasure is books whose main character is a female private investigator. The Laura Lippman books featuring Tess Monaghan are pretty good. Ms. Lippman is not Sue Grafton and Tess Monaghan is not Kinsey Millhone, but her books are pretty good and a quick read. They are tough to put down because I need to know the resolution as quickly as possible. I particularly liked this one because it took a long time for me to figure it out. I will read more of her books.
Jan 08, 2016 Peggy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always enjoy Tess Monaghan books. In this story Tess (former reporter, now Baltimore P.I.) is asked to look into the death of a Jane Doe after her confessed killer is himself murdered in prison. What unfolds involves shady politics, and even shadier relationships. Tess uncovers scandal and this time powerful people keep warning her to back off, but of course, she will not. This time the threats touch her family in ways she could not foresee. While I thought the ending was a little contrived, I ...more
Jan 02, 2015 Frank rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
[library e-book, plot summary elsewhere]

The standard Laura Lippman - Tess Monaghan cast and plot. Baltimore scenes, Baltimore characters, political corruption, etc. It was close to a 4 for enjoyment. A nice feminist theme around anorexia bulimia. But there were too many hidden clues, and Tess' relationship with Whitney was a little much.

I liked it, and will eventually read every Lippman that comes up on the library site.
James Fearn
Mar 31, 2016 James Fearn rated it liked it
Nero Award 2001. So, I was really enjoying the beginning of the book, with the character development progression and the plot line organization, and then something happened. I got lost in the dialogue after the revelation of who Jane Doe was and further lost interest in the story.
I really think that the minor details at the beginning of the book, especially the details entailing scheduling, would benefit the reader in the latter part of the book. The plot may need development, but that does not
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Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working fulltime and published seven books about “accidental PI” Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar , the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other ...more
More about Laura Lippman...

Other Books in the Series

Tess Monaghan (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan #1)
  • Charm City (Tess Monaghan #2)
  • Butchers Hill (Tess Monaghan #3)
  • In Big Trouble (Tess Monaghan #4)
  • In a Strange City (Tess Monaghan, #6)
  • The Last Place (Tess Monaghan #7)
  • By a Spider's Thread (Tess Monaghan #8)
  • No Good Deeds (Tess Monaghan #9)
  • Another Thing to Fall (Tess Monaghan #10)
  • The Girl in the Green Raincoat (Tess Monaghan, #11)

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“In her experience, it was those first sixty seconds, from the moment she flashed her P.I. license to the end of her pitch, that she was most likely to earn someone's cooperation. Older people were the easiest, if only because they were so often bored out of their minds that they welcomed any distraction. Men were curt, but they usually found the time, as long as she did the little-me, big-eye, big-chest thing. Women were more skeptical, because women spent their lives listening to bullshit.” 1 likes
“John Updike, in that book you gave me, he said the dead make space. Do you know what I think? Updike doesn't know dick about what it's like to be a homicide cop in Baltimore.” 1 likes
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