This post kicks off a new series which will look at stand alone novels by mystery writers who are better known for their big time franchise characters. First up, we look at I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman.
For most people, Laura Lippman is best known as the author of a series of novels featuring reporter-turned-private investigator Tess Monaghan. The Monaghan books make up one of the best mystery serials of the last two decades—quick and fun enough to devour on a beach, but meaty enough to keep you interested in the character over the course of several novels. To extend the food metaphor a bit more, the trick of any series (and this is as true of mysteries as it is of science fiction or westerns) is to give readers what they expect while finding new ways to spice up the recipe. Lippman knows how to cook. In fact, given the success of the Monaghan books and the armload of awards they’ve won (including the Edgar and the Shamus), it’s fair to say that Lippman is one of the best cooks in the business.
Any series novel has built-in constraints, though. Most obviously, the writer is saddled with one central character. Even if the writer loves complicating the character, it’s still the same character. The other main obstacle is that series characters—even if they are complex and ever-changing—tend to be heroes of one kind or another.