Quick And The Dead by Susan Moody

Quick and the DeadAlex Quick, once one of the youngest Detective Inspectors in the country, now works as the co-creator of a line of books mixing art with text, along with her colleague, Dr Helena Drummond. The partnership was exactly what Alex needed, coming out of a very dark period of her life, but now it seems that the partnership is in jeopardy.

Helena has disappeared, vanished without trace, but it could have been worse. The horribly mutilated corpse found in Helena’s bed might have been her – but it isn’t. Who does the body belong to? Who hated the person so much to do what was done to them – either before or after death? And where is Helena?

With the police convinced (with good reason) of Helena’s guilt, it falls to Alex to try to find her friend and find the real murderer… if indeed, they are different people.

Susan Moody is the writer of Penny Black (1984), number 56 in the top 100 mystery novels according to the Crime Writers Association. I’ll admit that I’ve never read any of her books before, but as she’s speaking at the next Bodies From The Library event, when I spotted this first book in a new series from Severn House, I had to take a look at it.

And before we go any further… Quick And The Dead. Presuming the intention to keep the word “Quick” in the titles, what are the other books in the series going to be called? “Kiss Me Quick” – a murder in an English seaside resort? “Quick, Quick, Slow” – a murder on the dance-floor? “Cut To The Quick” – um, a stabbing? Anyone got another one to give Susan a hand with future titles?

On to this one – it’s a slightly odd book. It veers closer to the “cozy noir” genre, a term that I defined a while ago. In my book, “noir” is the lead going round punching people/being punched until someone confesses to the right crime. “Cozy noir” is the same but with “punching” replaced with “bothering”. But I say veers as the early sections of the book are pretty dark – the things that are done to the body almost had me putting the book down and the opening self-descriptions of Alex – “I needed a man in more ways that one. I needed a f###.” – just felt like unnecessary cliché. But as the book progressed, it settled down into a more traditional vibe – indeed, once a possible man appears on the scene, Alex seems to do everything possible to push him away – and the book became a much more enjoyable read.

The murderer was a surprise to me, but the motivation and the reveal did make sense – there’s a lot of distraction, and by having the pool of suspects geographically scattered, it takes a while for the story to come together, but the mystery is nicely paced. By the end of the book, I certainly wanted to read more about Alex Quick, so it looks like the author has done her job. Well worth a look.

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