William Morrow, 2004
Tess Monaghan book 8
Source: personal copy
Getting back to the Tess Monaghan series is always a treat for me: I like prickly, solitary female P.I. characters, and I haven’t read enough of them lately. By a Spider’s Thread involves Tess Monaghan investigating the disappearance of Natalie Rubin, a young married Orthodox Jewish woman and her three young children. Part of the book involves Tess’s investigation and her uncomfortable relationship with Natalie’s husband Marc, the owner of a fur store, and the less successful parts of the story involve the story of Natalie and her boyfriend Zeke on the run with her children.
I think the Natalie and Zeke sections of the story falter because Lippman is keeping us in the dark about their motivations until close to the end, and that makes their sections feel a little flat. Lippman does give us one out, and that is the sections told by Natalie’s nine year old son Isaac: he is in our place, asking all the questions about the odd relationship between his mother and Zeke. The mystery, however, dragged for me.
I think some other readers would criticize the book because the character of Tess falls flat for them so far into the series: she’s still not dealing with her personal life and her emotional issues (she was seriously injured and killed someone for the first time in previous book), but I’m willing to cut Tess some slack because her story doesn’t dominate the book. The people she interviews in the course of the investigation and her relatives and friends also figure in the book, and they seem like real, complex people.
Other readers may criticize the book because there’s a lot of telling vs. showing as Tess delves into Marc’s life as an Orthodox Jew. I didn’t mind the expository sections so much because I felt more lectured to in books by Faye Kellerman than by this book.
Overall, this is not my favorite book in the series, which makes me happy that Lippman has written so many stand-alone novels.