What do you get when you cross a tough-as-nails PI, a liberal-white-guilt ridden bar manager, and a Streetwise homeless kid named, seriously, Lloyd Jupiter? You get the easy, breezy mystery novel, No Good Deeds, by Laura Lippman.
Laura Lippman is a master of the popcorn book. Have I explained my theory of popcorn books before? You know, popcorn is a food that basically has no real substance-it melts in your mouth, it doesn't generally ruin your dinner-but as a snack it is satisfying nonetheless. Popcorn books are similar-they aren't challenging intellectual exercises, just a good ol' time. Mysteries make for great popcorn books. Especially the recurring-character-driven kind like Lippman's. Her main character, private investigator Tess Monaghan, is one of the quirkier female PIs out there. She's a half Irish, half Jewish cop's daughter living in Baltimore, solving crime despite the efforts of criminals and the police alike to get her to mind her own business.
In this particular book, the story centers on the murder of an assistant US attorney. Her do-gooding boyfriend, Crow, decides to take in for the night the young punk who tried to run a flat-tire scam on him. Turns out, Lloyd knows a little something about the murder, and chaos ensues while Tess tried to get information to find the killer while protecting herself, Crow, and the boy. Once I got past the improbable event of a white middle-class man taking a homeless black teenager into his home for the night (and his should-have-known-better girlfriend allowing it), the rest of the story flowed exactly as you might expect it to.
Lippman does a great job developing her characters into someone you care about, and despite Lloyd's obvious criminality you can't help but like, and maybe even admire, the kid a little bit. The mystery itself is sometimes a little bit of a stretch, but it's flexible enough to take it. All in all, this and all of her books provide a solid afternoon of fast-paced reading enjoyment.