The final unused rte review in this batch – in this case it proved to be a duplicate.

Laura Lippman – Another Thing to Fall

¬†When out rowing early one morning, Tess Monaghan accidently ruins a carefully prepared shot which the makers of ‘Mann of Steel’, a television series being shot in Baltimore have been waiting an age to film. Her misfortune leads to a job however. Flip Tumulty, one of the producers, hires her to guard Selene Waites, the young and difficult actress whom the network are demanding be made central to the series. The guardianship involves keeping Selene out of trouble as much as protecting her from any external threats. It is not a job which Tess relishes but she charges well over her usual rates, and also wangles a job for her partner’s troublesome protege Lloyd. ‘Mann of Steel’ has been dogged by production problems – small fires, protests by local community activists and redundant steelworkers, and the suicide of a man, Wilbur Grace, who was found to have a lot of photos of Selene and various other documents relating to the series in his possession.

Tess soon starts to discover that there are complex tensions running through the production team – the relationship between the two producers, Flip and Ben Marcus, the draconian accountant Lottie, Flip’s ambitious assistant Greer and the male lead, Johnny Tampa, who had been the lead in a high-school drama which Tess had lapped up as a teenager. It quickly becomes apparent to Tees that her assignment is no sinecure and when a murder occurs the scenario takes a decisive turn for the worse.

Lippman’s husband is a producer of the television series ‘The Wire’, also set in Baltimore, and ANOTHER THING TO FALL is both description of and reflection upon the world of television and cinema. The way in which the characters think almost entirely in terms of television series and films is effectively, and sometimes wittily, conveyed. There is a problem for the non-American reader however in that the television series in particular will not always ring any bells and I was sometimes unaware whether the series invoked were real ones or Lippman’s invention. The book does convey Tess’s (and one suspects Lippman’s) complicated love/hate affair with television and the movies.

The narrative is conveyed, as seems semi-conventional today, from multiple viewpoints, including that of the murderer. The problem with this is that it tends to destroy the mystery, and to some extent reduce the tension. Indeed in this case the sub-plot is much more satisfactory and engaging than the main one. This is not to say that the book is not well-plotted or badly-paced. Lippman is a highly competent writer and ANOTHER THING TO FALL ticks most of the right boxes. In particular it is the comic, or semi-comic elements, which work best. Of these the shining gem is Mrs Blossom; Tess is also engaged in running a course for aspirant P.Is of whom the most unlikely is Mrs Blossom, a larger-sized lady who is taking the course to fill up her time. She proves, however, a valuable aide for Tess. While these lighter elements are the book’s greatest strength, its weaknesses are in the portrayal of the murderer, which only just avoids the stereotypical, and the attempt at probing the darker side of the world of television. ANOTHER THING TO FALL works best, and that is very well indeed, when it is aiming at and succeeding in being enjoyable.