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Dead Dead Girls - Review

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

*I received this E-Arc from NetGalley & Berkley Books. All views expressed are my own.*

I had high hopes for Nekesa Afia's debut novel, Dead Dead Girls. I've recently been on this Roaring Twenties kick and thought a black version of a murder mystery during the Harlem Renaissance would fill my BIPOC cup. Unfortunately, my cup did not runneth over, and I'm left with an unquenchable thirst.

"Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She's succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie's Café and her nights at the Zodiac, Manhattan's hottest speakeasy. Louise's friends might say she's running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don't tell her that.
When a girl turns up dead in front of the café, Louise is forced to confront something she's been trying to ignore--several local black girls have been murdered over the past few weeks. After an altercation with a local police officer gets her arrested, Louise is given an ultimatum: She can either help solve the case or let a judge make an example of her.
Louise has no choice but to take the case and soon finds herself toe-to-toe with a murderous mastermind. She'll have to tackle her own fears and the prejudices of New York City society if she wants to catch a killer and save her own life in the process."

I had DDG sitting in my virtual TBR list for a couple of months now, so I hope that this is the super early advance reader's copy that I received, because honey….

I had two major issues with the book: How it was written and how the story panned out. The story itself wasn't bad. It has all the dressings to make a good gumbo. I simply think it needs another revision. The pacing was good, but the flow of the story is very choppy. Afia tried to create an air of suspense, but it came off lazy, like a version of R.L. Stine's famous end-of-the-chapter cliffhangers. You know the ones, "And it was the last thing she saw…". Oooo—cue in the flickering lights and whooshes of air.

Along with not having the mysterious feeling, the author created a black hole of futile events and conversations that did not tie in smoothly to the story. She didn't clearly explain the dialogs, random character sightings, and theories presented either, which left a lot of speculation. Many New York plot holes needed refilling, and loose ends were blowing in the wind like strings on a balloon. It was disconcerting, but not enough to make me DNF.

The opening of the story started strong and clear. It introduces a young girl who experienced first-hand kidnapping and fast-forwarded that same girl's life ten years later. After her run-in with the police from a night of partying, the story started to fall flat for me. Where I considered DNFing, reached from the stupidity of the main character's thinking. To put it, that girl sucks at being a detective. All her moves were predictable and careless, and she had way too many feelings she couldn't explain but acted on impulse.

As a different reviewer mentioned, "it's not a 'whodunnit' [plot]. Rather, the "who" is revealed, and the evidence needs to be proven." It's a different format for a mystery book, but I think it works. Afia did a swell job switching up the norm.

All in all, I gave Dead Dead Girls a 2-star rating. I strongly recommend a revision. The book has potential, and I hope to see it, but for now, this ain't it.

Dead Dead Girls debuts June 1, 2021.

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