This Dame for Hire

“Even though I looked like any twenty-six-year-old gal ankling around New York City in ’43, there was one main difference between me and the rest of the broads. Show me another Jane who did my job and I’d eat my hat. And I wouldn’t relish that because my brown felt chapeau had a bright red feather sticking up from the left side of the brim, and I knew the feather would tickle going down.”

If Amanda Matetsky’s Paige Turner was working for Daring Detective ten years earlier, Faye Quick would have been her idol. This Dame for Hire is the first in the series by Sandra Scoppettone, who also apparently writes about a modern-day female New York detective.

When Faye’s boss was drafted and she went from secretary to P.I. most of her cases were routine investigations. That changed when she stumbled over the body of Claudette West. Now Claudette’s upper class parents want her to find the killer, but it seems there were many more young men in her life than they knew about. In addition, Mr. West’s insistence on being involved just may push Faye off the case. At a time when societal roles and acceptances are beginning to shift, Faye must rely on her perseverance and on-the-job training to track down the killer.

In general the most hard-boiled books I read are Perry Mason, so I can’t comment on how this compares to Sam Spade or other such P.I.’s. But what I like about Faye is that she’s scrappy without being too tough (my issue with V.I. Warshawski)–it kind of plays into the whole WWII mentality that this might not be the most pleasant or traditional job but everyone has to do their part to see justice done. She cares about those around her, likes music and books, and gets nervous when she has to carry a gun.

Nevertheless, this isn’t a sugar-coated society. Girls get murdered and men have affairs. Scoppettone also shows the contrasts and underlying similarities between the upper crust and the more vibrant life of the Village. In terms of detail and locale she captures the atmosphere of 1940s New York.

On the other hand, Scoppettone seems to believe that a P.I. must talk primarily in slang throughout this first person narrative. I understand that this is meant to provide authenticity, but a little goes a long way. I felt overwhelmed after the first few pages and almost abandoned ship! The dialogue is even worse–Faye and her peers use “ya” instead of “you,” and don’t believe in “g”s at the end of participles. It’s an added foil with the well-bred characters but still a bit much. This was by far by biggest complaint about the book, though it became a little less noticeable once I became absorbed in the plot.

To it’s credit, This Dame for Hire did not seem as clichéd as a lot of cozy mysteries; romance takes a definite back burner, and the idiosyncratic best friend (a psychic) only plays a small part in solving the mystery. So I guess despite all the slang Faye herself won me over. I won’t rush out for the next book in the series but I’ll keep it in mind for when I need a light read.

Update: I was cleaning out my TBR list and this  book was on there, from a while ago. I have no idea where I heard about it, but that kind of legitimizes the read and makes it seem less of a splurge…

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Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 1:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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