In Baltimore Blues Tess Monaghan is an out of work reporter, who agrees to help her friend and rowing buddy, Rock find out whether his fiancé Ava is having an affair. After all she needs the money and has been drifting for almost a year, working for her Aunt Kitty and living over her aunt's bookstore. After Tess confronts Ava about the lawyer she has been seeing on the side, he is killed and Rock is arrested. Tess agrees to work with another friend and lawyer, Tyner Gray, to help find the real killer.
In Charm City , Tess continues with the idea of being an investigator, and we get to know a couple of her reporter friends that are repeated in future books, Whitney and Feeney. She is also involved with Crow, who in the first book of the series, works for and has a crush on her aunt. Tess is still trying to get her footing both personally and professionally and often does not know what's good for her. Whitney recommends Tess to the Baltimore newspaper where she works. Her job is to track down who allowed a story to go to print, before it was substantiated. By the end of the book, she feels that being an investigator is her true calling.
In Butchers Hill Tess has opened her own private investigator business and has two jobs to work. One involves a man, who incidentally killed a child, and is freshly out of prison for it. He wants to make amends, by finding the child's family and friends and helping them financially. Unfortunately, the friends are being killed and even Tess wonders about her client's innocence. The other case involves a clever African- American woman, who is looking for the child she had given away when she was younger.
Of the three books, I enjoyed Butchers Hill the best. Tess is finally maturing and getting her act together. We get to know more about her family and her past in this book. The city of Baltimore is treated as a living, breathing character through the series as we follow Tess around its colorful neighborhoods. Whereas, Sara Paretsky has us diving into her character's life as a seasoned investigator with VI Warshawski, it has taken Lippman a while to bring Tess up to the same level. Now that she has a direction, I look forward to the next books in the series.
It might be best to start with a stand-alone before you start the series, which goes back to 1997. Her first one Every Secret Thing came out in 2003. To the Power of Three reminds me of something Harlan Coben might have written, because it deals with young adults. Lippman, who is herself a reporter, won the Edgar Award in 1998 for Charm City . She has never looked back.