Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Book Review: The Girl in the Green Raincoat
Author: Laura Lippman
Series: Tess Monaghan (#11)
I came across Laura Lippman while googling for authors similar to Tana French. In an effort to accept the fact that I've already read all of French's currently released books, and she's probably not going to move up the release of her next one even if I ask really nicely, I thought I'd attempt to locate an author with a similar style. If you're in a similar situation this review might help you. Based on this novella alone it is hard to say that Lippman does compare to French; perhaps one of her standalone novels would make for a better comparison. While French's Dublin Murder Squad series is filled with deeply complex psychological mysteries with prose that easily propels her into the "lit fic" category, Lippman's story in The Girl in the Green Raincoat is a very straight and simple mystery story, with a clear and not unpredictable road from start to conclusion. This isn't to say that one is better than the other, but that they cannot really be compared, since they offer completely different things.
A large flaw within this novel is its side characters. The characters within the mystery itself fell flat and were used as walking chess pieces for Tess to play with rather than people who would actually exist outside of a daytime soap opera. Tess' boyfriend and best friend were hardly much livelier despite the latter having a few awkwardly placed perspective shifts. Perhaps they've been further fleshed out in earlier books and Lippman didn't feel the need to do so further here. This very well could be due to my choice to read them out of order and would entirely be my fault. Tess herself was the shining point of this book for me and is the reason I plan to pick up other books in this series. She's a modern Nancy Drew with the snark, stubborn curiosity, and feminist ideals of Veronica Mars. Like Mars she is not averse to dumpster digging for evidence. She's unsure that she'll ever have motherly instincts having never particularly wanted a child, questions her relationship as everyone does sometimes, still has eyes (hormones) for other men despite being loyal (women in relationships still have eyes!) and expresses distaste for the media's racist leanings and people who preface sentences by saying they heard something on NPR. I'm interested to see the beginning of her story and to experience her unravel a mystery when she isn't on bed rest.
I also felt that this book could have used further editing. The writing was very clunky in parts and hard to understand. Sentences did not flow or make sense. I found myself rereading to try to make sense of certain paragraphs to no avail. I don't come across this a lot as I find I'm usually not overly-attentive to such things (being no master of grammar or the English language myself) but here it became so frequent and obvious that I was unable to ignore it. The plotting was also oddly paced and the entire book felt rushed. I can see how it would be hard to write a complete story with your main detective on bed rest, but then, why write the story at all if it's going to feel forced?
It's safe to say that while I enjoyed Tess as a character and Lippman's subtle commentary on racism and sexism, the jury is still out on whether or not she will prove to be an alternative to French for me. For that to happen I would need a little more than an enjoyable mystery and a lot more depth to all of the main characters. It may seem like I didn't enjoy this book, but due to Tess and due to Lippman's intelligent dialogue, I did. Also, Dempsey, the miniature Italian Greyhound who had more personality than anyone else in the story aside from Tess. I'll be reading more of her books in the future but I may try one of her standalone offerings before diving back into Tess' world again, and would recommend anyone yearning for more Tana French do the same, instead of beginning with the Tess series.
"But "settle down" reminded her of settling, period, and she was furious again. Dissatisfied by conversation with Crow, she decided to talk to her daughter, who seemed to be kicking her feet rhythmically, as antsy about confinement as Dempsey. Don't ever settle, Fifi. Don't get married just because it's still marketed as the ultimate achievement for women."