Going to applaud Laura Lippman here for tackling race. I was wondering if she was going to do it, and it's slightly imperfect, but I did love her showing how Tess was steeped in privilege and didn't even get how much until she met Jackie (one of her clients with a surprising connection to her) and Luther Beale. I loved how Lippman showcases two different Baltimore's (one for white people and one for black people). I also love the shoutout to HBO's "The Wire."
"Butchers Hill" has Tess single and dealing with the effects of being badly beaten in the last book. She finally opened up her own P.I. firm in Baltimore and is nervously waiting for business to come her way. Her first client is Luther Beale, an older African American man who was charged with manslaughter years earlier when he fired when some young kids started vandalizing his car. Beale is a pariah in his community and wants Tess's help in tracking down the survivors in order to provide them with money to help them out.
Tess's second client is a woman named Jackie that is looking to find her adopted daughter. I won't get into how Tess and her relationship is complicated, but the reveal we get is outstanding. What is great though is that Tess is floundering without her best friend Whitney by her side. She needs someone to interact with that is not her nutty family or her aunt. When Tess and Jackie start to interact, Tess finds herself envious of Jackie's money and clothes, but realizes that even that doesn't change that the rest of the world still looks down on Jackie because she's black.
I have to say a few times I wanted to shake Tess cause her thoughts and comments pretty much shows she doesn't get it when African American people she comes across don't want to have anything to do with her, and she seems to have a vague idea that racism is a thing. She makes a few jokes about the confederacy and I wanted Jackie to smother her.
That said, you can see Tess in her own misguided way, wants to help Jackie and really sees her as a friend. I was surprised by the ending with these two and I think most readers will be as well.
These two cases really have nothing to do with each other besides Jackie helping out Tess with her first investigation and things tying up nicely in the end.
Tess's family shines in this one. You have heard about the bickering and pain in the butt grandmother, now you get to meet people in the flesh. I maybe laughed a few times at some of the scenes and was surprised to see how things ended up with Tess, her family, and some other characters.
The writing was really good and I liked the flow.
Baltimore is still a perfect setting for this series and this third book really comes alive with things. I don't know about the fourth book, looks like Tess is going to Texas and I am sad we won't see her in her usual habitat.