10 January 2013

The Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox

Pop quiz: What would you do if you had to solve your own murder to get anywhere in death?

Maybe if I hadn't slept through my alarm, slammed into Kristin--my high school's reigning mean

girl--or stepped in a puddle, destroying my mom's new suede DVF boots (which I borrowed without asking), I wouldn't have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I wouldn't have been pushed in front of that arriving train. But I did, and I was.

When I came to, I was informed by a group of girls that I'm dead. And that because I died under mysterious circumstances, I can't pass straight over to the Other Side. But at least I'm not alone. Meet the Dead Girls Detective Agency: Nancy, Lorna, and Tess--not to mention Edison, the really cute if slightly hostile dead boy. Apparently, the only way out of this limbo is to figure out who killed me, or I'll have to spend eternity playing Nancy Drew. Considering I was fairly invisible in life, who could hate me enough to want me dead? And what if my murderer is someone I never would have suspected?

The Dead Girls Detective Agency is not my idea of a hardcore ghost story, mostly because at every twist and turn, it's an epic meeting of Cliches United.  Take out the humor and you're left with a mass of predictability: mean, slow and slutty cheerleaders, brooding bad boys, a lead (ghost) detective with the brains of a geek princess and the tact of a nuclear bomb, and a main character who "just wants..." to within an inch of her death.  And despite it all (even the totally sketchy murderer)... Dead Girls was a charming and entertaining book.  It was four hundred-odd pages of fluff and questionable taste, but it was also incredibly funny and original.

I can't honestly say that I liked the main character, Charlotte, because she seemed way too cookie cutter for me.  Nearly all of her reactions and responses were predictable to the point where I would smirk whenever she said exactly what I knew she would.  I will totally give her kudos for her sometimes snappy comebacks, though.  Her interactions with bad ghost boy, Edison, were like getting ringside seats to a high school drama and luckily, I brought along popcorn.  The rest of the characters weren't much of a step up from Charlotte.  Lorna was good comic relief, but I thought Nancy was a bit unformed.  I kept getting her and Lorna confused in the beginning of the story, and character confusion isn't a huge turn-on.

Moving over that speed bump... the murder plot?  The whodunnit?  Pretty weak.  I was disappointed at the climax because all the build up fell flat.  I was expecting a more believable and definitive motive from the murderer -- I mean, if you're going to push a girl under a train, you'd better be outright unhinged (and insanity doesn't just go by unnoticed).  The whole murder mystery just lacked a creative hand.  Though that's not to say the ending wasn't interesting.  There was a twist at the end that I liked, although now it has me unconsciously prepped for a sequel, evidence of which has yet to be seen.

I liked the world of Dead Girls.  I liked how teen ghosts check in to a hotel and, of course, go through the Big Red Door when they get their Key from the confession of their murderer.  They get to port places with just a thought, and they can choose when they appear to humans for the most effective haunting.  They can walk through walls and possess humans (which is Cox's way of explaining deja vu) but the only drawback (besides being dead) is that they can't change anything about their appearance.  It has to stay the same way it did when they were dead.  So if you happened to be wearing your god awful school uniform at the time of the incident... Well... Nobody expects you to look all that attractive when you're dead, right?

My favorite part of this story was the humor.  All kinds of hilarity floating around the afterlife.  I thought it was a bit strange that Dead girls kept flitting between a fluffy, almost middle grade material to all of a sudden, hello, we're using swear words.  I really expected it to be one or the other -- hardcore with big girl swear words or fluffy and middle grade.  It's alternating style made it come off a little unconvincing but I still appreciated the humor.  A lot of it was truly clever, and I'd totally share a fist bump with Suzy Cox for some of the stuff she came up with.

So despite the hiccups, The Dead Girls Detective Agency was a fun and fast-ish read.  I'm not really attracted to the ghostly side of fantasy, but this one was enjoyable and swayed me a little towards picking up something from the other side more often.

"Now you sound like my kind of ghoul."
"Guys, when I said I was really into my boyfriend, I did not mean literally."
Book Info

  • pages - paperback, 384
  • published - September 2012
  • publisher - HarperTeen
  • genre - urban fantasy
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 4/5