Laura Lippman, Harper Collins, 320 pages
Laura Lippman’s novels about private investigator Tess Monaghan have never followed the predictable mode. The series about this sometimes cranky, perceptive young woman has afforded Lippman a way of looking at what motivates people and how each person’s actions touch us.
Parenthood imbues the emotional plot of “Hush Hush” and makes this one of Lippman’s finest novels. Parents who are calm, concerned and cheerful – as well as frustrated, fixated and furious – show that child rearing is fraught with land mines.
Tess and her new partner, former cop Sandy Sanchez (“After I’m Gone”), are hired to assess the security of wealthy Melisandre Harris Dawes, newly returned to Baltimore. Melisandre knows that in Baltimore she still is vilified because 12 years ago she stood trial for killing her infant daughter, who was left in a hot car to die.
Melisandre claimed she suffered from postpartum psychosis and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Now she wants to reconnect with her two older daughters, now teenagers living with her ex-husband who is remarried with a 6-month-old son.
Despite the high pay, Tess dislikes the assignment. Melisandre is a force of nature – argumentative, volatile, with no respect for anyone. As the mother of an active toddler, Tess also is at odds with Melisandre’s views of motherhood.
Lippman smoothly weaves parenting and unconditional love into an exciting mystery that spins on precise character studies.
Girl in a Band
Kim Gordon, Dey Street, 288 pages
As the front woman for influential indie band Sonic Youth for three decades, Kim Gordon had a ringside seat as experimental music went mainstream with the help of MTV and Lollapalooza in the 1980s and 1990s.
Married to band co-founder Thurston Moore for 27 years, the duo seemed to have the perfect rock-star marriage – until it unraveled in 2011, devastating fans. In her memoir, Gordon details how the relationship became strained and the pain she felt as Moore started an affair with another woman.
Gordon has high praise for artists she admires, such as Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, and details the kinship she felt with Kurt Cobain before his suicide in 1994. But she has harsh words for others like Courtney Love, whom she labels manipulative, and singer Lana Del Rey, who she says “doesn’t even know what feminism is.”
Those looking for a postmortem on Gordon and Moore’s marriage won’t be disappointed in the memoir. But the more vivid scenes that Gordon paints are the thrills in the 1980s when Sonic Youth came together in New York, and the 1990s when a band like Sonic Youth could make it big – something she doesn’t see in today’s era of sanitized pop.
“Did the 1990s ever exist?” she wonders. “Mainstream music is just as conservative as it was back in the 1980s. Experimental music has become a genre.”