No Good Deeds (Lippman)

The prologue grabbed my attention right away, setting up not only a promising plot, but also offering astute commentary on today’s Baltimore (where I lived for three years – down the block from Lippman actually – not that she knew it).

And Lippman’s protagonist, Tess Monaghan, is not quite as snappy and sarcastic as Spenser or Easy Rawlins (which in my mind, is a good thing).

Lippman does have a tendency to over-explain her images and dialogue, either not trusting her writing or not trusting her readers. She could do with some editing.

As astute as she is about voicing the racial realities of life in Baltimore (she’s married to David Simon, of The Wire fame), she makes some curious choices about two of the main characters. One choice, to create a character with an Arabic last name, serves the plot. This is a post 9/11/2011 story, and Lippman makes that matter. The other, a black man, well, I can’t quite figure out the rationale behind it.

The title is interesting. Obviously suggesting the rest of the cliche (“goes unpunished”), it could speak to the fact that there are no unequivocally good deeds in the book or, more interestingly, that the self-diagnosed white liberal characters (Tess and her boyfriend, Crow) are operating, in their effort to help a character, more from guilt than anything else.

Lippman does resort to an action movie cliche (mano v mano battle) near the end, which is regrettable, but this is an interesting and complex story, one that is to a great extent, reflective of the Baltimore I know.

Linda Emond, a great actress (though not the nicest person, in my limited interactions with her) does a great job reading the novel.


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