Downsized ex-reporter Tess Monaghan spends her days working part-time at the bookstore owned by sexy Aunt Kitty and trying not to fall into the disgustingly polluted Patapsco from her city-owned boat. When rowing buddy Rocky pays her what looks like a fortune to follow his fiance, the trail leads to murder with Rocky the prime suspect. "Uneven" is the word for this first novel-hometown and newspaper backgrounds are alive from page one, but characters are cartoons until chapter 15 (out of 30) when Tess investigates the victim. Suddenly the story perks up to a believable pageturner. If Lippman continues the promise of the second half of Baltimore Blues while adhering to advice attributed to Elmore Leonard to cut out the parts people won't read, mystery fans can anticipate an engrossing series.