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In a Strange City

(Tess Monaghan #6)

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  3,081 ratings  ·  216 reviews

It is a treasured Charm City tradition. Every year on Edgar Allan Poe's birthday a figure wrapped in a dark cloak visits the renowned author's Baltimore gravesite and leaves behind three roses and half a bottle of cognac. No Baltimorean worth his or her salt would ever dream of trying to determine the true identity of the "Poe Toaster," thereby possibly destroying a cheris

Published September 4th 2001 by William Morrow (first published 2001)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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 ·  3,081 ratings  ·  216 reviews

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Not going to lie, this one so far is my least favorite of the series. It just drags and it's pretty obvious who has to be the bad guy because we are only introduced to one person who could have done it. Also for a book about Edgar Allen Poe this was boring. I have to admit though, I had no freaking clue the Baltimore Ravens were named for Poe's "The Raven" poem. How did I not know that? Interesting premise, but it just doesn't work.

"In a Strange City" has Tess and Crow dealing with t
Daniel Sevitt
Kinda plodding entry in the series. These are meant to be page turners and it's frustrating when not enough happens to keep me turning the page. Lumpen.
PJ Who Once Was Peejay
Maybe a 2.5 because the writing is good, the characterizations are mostly excellent, the premise was interesting, BUT I found the plot so transparent that I guessed the whodunit quite early on and much of the whydunit. As a result, the ending was flat and not particularly inspiring. The other plot element I didn't care for centered around the main character, Tess Monaghan, doing stupid things. I realize that part of this is because Tess is a risk-taker, but she displayed such stupidity in some p ...more
Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I have read a two Laura Lippmann stand alones before, but never anything from her Tess Monaghan series until now. In a Strange City is no. 6 in the sequence and while there were obvious references to the previous books, they didn’t impede the story or the introduction of the characters at all IMO.

Back in my early adult life, when I only read a handful of books a year, these kinds of mystery series were the bulk of what I did read (Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George, Patricia Cornwall etc.
Book Concierge
January in Baltimore can only mean one thing – the annual visit to Edgar Allan Poe’s final resting place by the Poe Toaster, an anonymous person, dressed in cape and scarf, who leaves three roses and a half-full bottle of cognac at the grave on Poe’s birthday. PI Tess Monaghan gets embroiled in the tradition when a mysterious man tries to hire her to follow and unmask the Toaster. She declines the job, but winds up investigating when 1) TWO Toasters show up and one is shot, and 2) she receives a ...more
Jun 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-books
so, lippman is very bookish -- at least, that comes across strongly in each of her books. the main character was an english major, and there are often book titles and author's names dropped in each story. in this instalment, lippman fully embraces both the meta-ness with edgar allan poe. i think it would be hard to have a mystery series set in baltimore and not have poe factor in at some point. i hope lippman had fun with this one. i continue to enjoy how lippman consistently comes up with inter ...more
Nov 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009-books
Lippman has been getting better with each book, but the story lines are also getting darker. Tess is no longer the happy-go-lucky PI she started out as - and she's a better character for it.

This book actually taught me a little bit about Edgar Allan Poe and that can never be a bad thing. I'm more interested in his stories than I have been since my friend Amy introduced me to him in the 6th grade. I may have to pick up a book of his short stories very soon.
Learned more about Poe than I ever wanted to and the book was dragggged out to long. Good book though - I just thought it could have been a bit shorter.
Kristi Lamont
Well, it was bound to happen. This one was kinda meh to me. Very well-written, but just sorta blah. Maybe because it was too, too Bawlmore, hon? Or maybe I need to go read some long-form non-fiction for a bit, quit eating the proverbial macaroni and cheese and chocolate ice cream every day.....
Gloria Feit
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the publisher: For the past fifty years on the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe, a person wearing a cloak has placed three roses and a half bottle of cognac on the writer’s gravesite. PI Tess Monaghan has never witnessed the event. But when John P. Kennedy, an eccentric antiques dealer, asks her to uncover the identity of the caped visitor, who he believes has duped him with the sale of an inauthentic antique, Tess decides to hold vigil on the night the cloaked stranger is expected to make an ...more
Kathleen (Kat) Smith
"What's the difference between a ritual and a routine? It's a question he asks himself almost every day. Are rituals better than routines, more elevated? Or do ritual invariable slide into routine, until we forget why we started and why we continue? Another good question, but he's afraid pondering the answer will only tempt him to sleep, and he is determined to see the sun rise today. Once upon a midnight dreary...ah, but such allusions are unworthy, the sort of obvious unthinking wordplay one e ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read Laura Lippman before, but not one of her Tess Monaghan novels. This has a different tone than the stand alone novels. The stand alones are darker, more grim, and definitely more disquieting. I didn't expect to find humour and the lighter atmosphere that is definitely in this book. This is the sixth Tess Monaghan and although this is a series, it didn't matter that I had not read the previous books, although I'm sure that it would have given me more background. Tess is a likable charact ...more
re-read began february 2, 2011.

i don't know why i didn't like this one so much the first time around. this time i kind of appreciated the lack of kitty, tyner, whitney, and even crow. the Porcine one, all the poe clues - this is a great mystery, even if it did leave me feeling a little sad (poor, lonely Visitor!)

I liked the glimpses into baltimore history, was annoyed with tess' braid, and mostly was sad that she wasn't rowing as much anymore. for some reason, the fact th
Sharon Mensing
The good thing about this book is that it has an interesting setting and background -- Edgar Allan Poe's Baltimore in the present day. I learned a lot about Poe and Baltimore in this book. However, the unsolved mystery is why Tess Monaghan, our PI sleuth, would have gotten involved in this mystery in the first place. Throughout the book, this nagged at me, and as I finished the book it still didn't make sense. I also really hated the way that the explanation for the thefts and murders involved w ...more
Jul 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I don't know why I keep reading these. The main character is such a sanctimonious monster. At one point, her boyfriend calls her out on it because she is complaining that a third character behaves more or less exactly like she does. It was satisfying and maybe even self-aware of the author, but it doesn't change the fact that Tess is a macho-woman paragon who loves carbohydrates, her "signature" braid, and knowing what men want in a woman (i.e. not some put-together, too-skinny, she-devil).
Dec 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
This is the only Laura Lippman book I've read to date. She's definitely a talented writer who knows to add all of the right pop culture references in order to make her characters organic. In fact, what I liked most about this story were the youthful characters, (one in particular; a beer-swilling, pizza-scarfing librarian.) I also feel it was very tasteful to have a story centered around Edgar Allan Poe and the annual Poe "toaster." The writer obviously places a lot of emphasis and pride on her ...more
Mar 12, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenna by: Library Shelf
I was honestly not that thrilled with this book. First let me say that I thought that basing a mystery around the Poe Toaster was a really good idea. However, I didn't appreciate the heavy language in the book and there were places where it seemed as if the plot was not progressing and I had to drag myself through parts. And if it counts for anything, I knew who the murderer was shortly after being introduced to his character.
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Timing is everything in reading & timing worked against Laura Lippman's In a Strange City. I had recently read another book about Baltimore & the Poe Visitor legend, so I kept entwining the 2 books in my mind. This made it very hard to keep the characters straight & greatly diminished my enjoyment of the book. I am giving Lippman's Tess Monaghan series a brief rest & may read this book again someday to give it the attention Lippman's writing deserves.
Jan 08, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Baltimore reference are fun. It is chock full of them. It seems like every chapter they are patronizing another bar, restaurant or store. I like the strong sense of place. It made me more intrigued by Baltimore.

I didn't find the mystery compelling. I felt like the mystery unfolded without violating any of it's own rules (i.e. lying to the reader in order to later "surprise" the reader), but I didn't feel tension as it did so.
Back to this series. Diverted for a book club book and a return to an old series.... Book was good, learned a little about Poe. Still love this series. Next another old one....

For the past fifty years on the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe, a person wearing a cloak has placed three roses and a half bottle of cognac on the writer’s gravesite. PI Tess Monaghan has never witnessed the event. But when John P. Kennedy, an eccentric antiques dealer, asks her to uncover the identity of the ca
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Listened to this audio book because of the Poe story line and it's in Baltimore. Philadelphia (my home town) is one of three Poe house museum locations.

The central character (I take it) is an acquired taste. I found her to be rude, crude and (often) extremely annoying. Book reviews call her a "risk taker" which I find a generous description. Perhaps if there was a bit more charm about her, she (for me) wouldn't be such a ... sociopath (if you know what I mean).

The other m
Virginia Van
It's a Baltimore tradition: For fifty years, to mark the birth date of Edgar Allan Poe, a person wearing a cloak has placed three roses and a half bottle of cognac on the writer’s gravesite. John P. Kennedy, an antiques dealer, tells PI Tess Monaghan that he caped man has cheated him over the same of an antique bracelet and he wants Tess to find out who he is. Tess goes to graveyard, but this year two cloaked figures arrive, one of whom shoots the other and then escapes. When roses and cognac be ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gblt, mystery
This one just didn't completely work for me, because I think you need to be a bigger Poe fan to be tickled by its slightly eccentric premise/plot. Basically, a young gay man is shot impersonating the infamous Poe toaster and Tess tries to uncover how his death, Poe's legacy, a fake potential client, queer advocacy, antiques and Baltimorabilia, thefts and a library all tie in together. I picked the culprit/villain early on. There's another VERY obvious Chekhovian gun in this one, in the shape of ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Another enjoyable installment in the Tess Monaghan series set in Baltimore. This is mystery revolves around the gravesite of Edgar Allen Poe and a murder that takes place. Tess and her boyfriend are there because she was hired to observe the ritual of the 3 Red Roses and bottle of Cognac which is left by a unknown individual each year in January. After the murder takes place Tess investigates several other cases directly related to the case as she finds out. There is a series of twist and turns ...more
Tammy Mitchell
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, so the narration was SOOOOO much better on this one! It wasn’t great, but comparatively, it was fantastic. Thankfully, the narration did not detract from the story. As is is usually the case, I knew The Who in The Who dunnit, but there is still enough build up to keep one's attention. The characters are well written, developed and the plot is good. I enjoyed this book and am moving on to the next in the series.
Gordon Prescott
My love affair with Laura Lippman mysteries is over. “In a Strange City” within the Tess Monaghan series she takes an Edgar Alan Poe premise and obliterates believability, suspense, and involving characters. The novel sludges through to an unsatisfying ending. The dreary cat and mouse is a creaky plot device. It will take me some time before I forgive Laura and attempt another of her novels. It was fun while it lasted.
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first Tess Monaghan novel and my first Laura Lippmann novel. I throughly enjoyed it. The mystery with all the Poe nods was awesome! Their motivations were believable. The characters were interesting and I want to see someone them again. I liked that multiple people were right about the mystery. Baltimore was a character in this novel. That was a great addition. I will be reading about Tess again.
Not my favourite in the series, but not so bad that I'm going to quit. Quite a lot more filler than usual; and at times it felt like the City of Baltimore must be paying her to pump up the glories of her town - there was quite a lot of Baltimore description and scene-setting. But still, a fun read, and if someone were in fact an Edgar Allan Poe die-hard fan it would probably rate even more.
Faith Hurst-Bilinski
I love a book that makes me go and learn something when I’m finished. I learned some new things about Poe after finishing this today and I may go back and reread him when I get home. There were a couple of characters that seemed to stick out and make me say, “There’s got to be more there.” But the ending as still fun. What is it with east coast cities being so competitive, though?
Three stars because I liked the literary and library references—including a cameo by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, back when she was head of Baltimore's Pratt Library—but the plot became more tiresome and less plausible as the novel progressed.
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Laura Lippman is a New York Times bestselling novelist who has won more than twenty awards for her fiction, including the Edgar Award—and been nominated for thirty more. Since her debut in 1997, she has published twenty-one novels, a novella, a children’s book, and a collection of short stories. Her books have been translated into over twenty languages. LitHub named her one of the “essential” fema ...more

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)
  • The Sugar House (Tess Monaghan #5)
  • 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)
“The past was worth remembering and knowing in its own right. It was not behind us, never truly behind us, but under us, holding us up, a foundation for all that was to come and everything that had ever been.” 13 likes
“She was only beginning to grasp the geometry lessons that had perplexed her in junior high, the revelation that the world was full of infinite planes that never intersect.” 2 likes
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