Laura Lippman continues to shake up her Tess Monaghan series, this time by focusing on her boyfriend, Crow. In No Good Deeds, life is good for Tess and Crow. He works for her father’s bar. She now has a thriving, if occasionally struggling, private investigation service. Crow even does good by recycling restaurant leftovers for the local homeless pantries.
So when Crow takes in a homeless boy named Lloyd Jupiter, little do any of them – Crow, Tess, or Lloyd – realize the storm they’ve just walked into. Lloyd recognizes the name, but not the face, of a murdered assistant US Attorney who case remains unsolved. When Tess pries some info out of Lloyd as a favor to her former employers at the Baltimore Beacon-Light, all three become the target of three vengeful feds – Assistant US Attorney Gabe Dabresio, FBI agent Barry Jenkins, and DEA agent Micheal Collins. The three are relentless and turn Tess’s life upside down trying to get her to reveal Lloyd’s name. When someone else is killed in Lloyd’s stead, Crow takes it upon himself to spirit Lloyd away, using ideas he gets from The Wire. (Hinted at, but not named, for reasons that will shortly become obvious.)
Lippman began shaking up the series with The Last Place, a serial killer novel that could very well have been a finale for the series if she so chose. The novel tied up the first six novels in a bow and added some depth to Tess’s backstory. With By A Spider’s Thread, a detective story became the framework for something much larger. Lippman painted on a much wider canvass, getting into the heads of several characters, including a poor kidnapped boy who knew he was in “one of the I states”.
No Good Deeds pulls back to a more straightforward crime novel. The hook here is Crow, a character I couldn’t really connect with in previous novels. Here, Crow has a whole backstory, a life of his own. He goes from being The Boyfriend (which I admit is an unfair assessment, but every series has a character one reader or another doesn’t quite feel) to driving the story. Crow is in over his head, knows it, and yet keeps running, trying to do all the right things.
Lippman is married to David Simon, who produced The Wire, in production when this was written. The cross-pollination between the two series shows itself from time to time, most openly in The Wire‘s final season with Lippman as an actual character, along with two cops from her standalone books appearing in a scene with McNulty. In this book, the cross pollination is more subtle. Many of the snatches of dialog and the behavior of certain cops and street thugs come straight out of the HBO series. And while it’s an obvious source for Crow to draw inspiration from to pull off his disappearing act, Lippman is very careful not to overtly mention it by name. It does give No Good Deeds a slightly different feel from the other books in the series.
Overall, I like this book. It doesn’t have the dramatic punch of By A Spider’s Thread (Still my favorite Laura Lippman novel to date) or the scathing bite of Another Thing to Fall (where you learn that not every show that comes to Baltimore loves Baltimore like The Wire.) But it propels the series onward, teasing out more threads of Tess Monaghan’s world, and giving Crow his own stage to shine.