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“I don’t worry too much. After all, I have this fine watch dog -” the greyhound, Esskay, unrolled stiffly from the sofa, did her salaam stretch, and presented herself to Patrick for the obligatory tribute she demanded from everyone who crossed the threshold.

“And a gun in my desk drawer.”

If Tess were in therapy, a psychiatrist probably could have spent many, many hours on the immense pleasure she took in brandishing her .38 Smith & Wesson at her father just then. But really, the gesture said more about her relationship with her gun than it did about her relationship with her father. When she first opened the office, she had kept it in the wall safe. She had been literally gun shy, afraid of her own weapon. She soon found that there was no percentage in having a permit to carry if she didn’t keep the gun close at hand. The fact of gun ownership didn’t intimidate anyone, she needed the weapon nearby.

Besides, she had fallen a little in love with her Smith & Wesson. It felt good in her hand and it was much more reliable than the other tools of her trade – the cell phone, the computer, her instincts.

The Sugar House, by Laura Lippman, is the fifth in a series of almost a dozen mysteries about Baltimore native Tess Monaghan, a laid-off reporter who falls into private investigation. My wife loves mysteries, especially by women authors, so when I spied Baltimore Blues and Charm City on the shelves of the thrift store, I bought them for her as a way of introducing her to our new city. But I actually read each one before she does. While I don’t bother with most of my wife’s books, I really do enjoy reading about Tess, her peculiar life and ever-growing extended family.

This isn’t a big action shoot-em-up adventure, or forensic study, or smoking jacket mystery series but they are very believable and get you involved with characters. Tess hasn’t actually fired the gun in the course of the first four books, although she’s been shot at, but after this love paean I have a feeling it will come in handy soon.

The above passage reminded me of my own mixed feelings about firearms. I grew to really like the one I handled for a few weeks, but I can’t convince myself that I should actually own one.

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