"She's just trouble. Dahlia Moss is a nexus of trouble."
Det. Maddocks meant that as a disparaging remark -- but he's pretty much on target. Which is good news for Wirestone's readers.
Dahlia is asked to meet someone at a video game tournament, he's convinced it'd be good to have a detective on hand. Her mysterious client, Doctor XXX, doesn't show where he's supposed to -- but there is a dead body there.
So, while not getting in the police's way, Dahlia needs to investigate the murder, find out just who Doctor XXX is, why he thought a detective would be needed at the tournament -- not to mention, just who's the guy in his underwear handcuffed to a chair nearby?
Concerned for her welfare, Dahlia's roommate, Charice sends her boyfriend Daniel along to act as a bodyguard -- for some reason, people in her life aren't crazy about Dahlia going to meet a stranger named Doctor XXX. I enjoy Charice, but a little of her goes a long way, and one of the biggest issues I had with the previous book was that Charice was just in it too much -- having Daniel stand in for her for most of the book helped a lot. Daniel's goofy enough on his own, but he's much more restrained than this girlfriend. So the whole thing was easier to take. Det. Shuler wasn't around much, and mostly served as someone for Dahlia to get occasional help from. Hopefully, he has a bigger role next time. Of course, we also have Nathan, Dhalia's love interest:
A word about shirtless Nathan. I have a real thing for Nathan-I admit it-but this is not a Janet Evanovich-y romp here where Rick ManSlab takes off his shirt to reveal a sixpack, or an eight-pack, or a seven-pack (which is a six-pack and an abdominal hernia, possibly?), or whatever packs guys have these days. Shirtless Nathan looks like a turtle who has somehow gotten out of its shell. He has no body mass! No fat, which is admittedly appealing, but no anything else. He was a brazen little turtle, though, because he seemed cheered by the turn of events.
Dahlia herself is a blast -- a great mix of confidence, cowardice, competence, and cluelessness -- she's over her head in a lot of the situations she finds herself in -- but doesn't let that stop her -- she just barrels on, sure that things will work out . . . eventually. I love her voice, her attitude -- and ineptitude. Really, all of her. She's probably my favorite female detective since Izzy Spellman.
I know, thanks to that blurb/review of The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss , everyone talks about Veronica Mars in relation to Dahlia -- but the more I think of it, the quotation above is closer to the truth -- she's Stephanie Plum with more realistic anatomy. The same heart, a similar humor, the same good intentions and haphazard results, with some loony friends (not as extreme as Stephanie's) and a similar budding triangle.
In the midst of the investigations, Wirestone is able to celebrate the videogame culture and those who are part of it while being able to joke about it and have fun with some of the eccentricities around it. Not just laughing at, but with these characters and their hobbies is a great way to appeal to both those inside geek culture and without. More than that, we have a pretty decent mystery -- one that's not just clever in construction, but in the way it is told.
This is such an enjoyable read -- I didn't make it out of the first chapter without audibly chuckling. I had a lot of fun with the first book, and I think this was a noticeable improvement -- I had more fun reading it. I hope this trend continues to the next book.
Also, I'm hoping this isn't a trilogy -- I don't know that we need 20+ Dahlia Moss mysteries, but three isn't going to be enough.