Pub Day Repost: The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

Yeah, this is a strange time for me to post, but I felt like Dahlia challenged me to. You’ll get it when you read the book.

The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia MossThe Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss

by Max Wirestone
Series: Dahlia Moss, #3eARC, 352 pg.
Redhook, 2018
Read: December 21 – 22, 2017

I am so glad that this eARC asked me not to quote anything from the book until I could check with the published version because by the time I hit 5%, I’d already come up with a handful of candidates of quotations to start this post with, and I didn’t want to have to choose.

Literally picking up where The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss left off — with Emily Swenson asking Dahlia to be an industrial spy. She’s being sent to serve as a Temp in the offices of a game development company — they’re best known for a really simple game, the kind you play in line at the DMV or something, it’s relaxing. Still, it’s a gaming company and a pretty successful one at that — it’s the kind of place Dahlia should work (if she wasn’t becoming a detective). There’s another company about to buy them out, but they need some more information — there are rumors of problems in the office, are they true? Could they look at the existing code for the new version so someone can see why it’s delayed?

Dahlia jumps at the assignment — which is good, because otherwise the novel would be a very short, and pretty dull, story. She shows up for her first day to find, well, chaos? Chaos seems to be an understatement. She starts to acclimate pretty quickly and is behaving more professionally than just about anyone in the office. If Dahilia is the standard of professional behavior, that tells you everything you need to know about the rest. Oh, and then Dahlia finds a dead body. Now in addition to her Industrial Espionage work, there’s maybe a murder for her to look into in her spare time.

The problems she faces staying staying incognito: The detective in charge of investigating the murder/suspicious death knows about her from Shuler. There’s a reporter sniffing around — and scheduled to tour the company — who’s written about her exploits. Her friends can’t stop saying things to her coworkers about her being a detective. And, well, she’s just not that subtle of an investigator — she largely pulls it off, but that’s primarily due to the company being in turmoil and no one having a lot of attention to devote to the question “why is our temp asking all these questions?”

Part of the fun of these books has been watching Dahlia flail around, unsure what to do next. There’s less of that here — she’s learning. I’m not suggesting that she’s transformed herself into Kinsey Millhone or Joan Watson, but there’s something about her that’s less flailing. Maybe because she has some pretty clear objectives this time out. I liked that hint of growing skills. Not bad for someone with a recent concussion.

Now, to the rest of the cast: the people in the office, by and large, feel like characters from other series. Gamers, SF geeks, cosplayers . . . those seem like people Dahlia interacts with. Responsible adults with steady jobs? Nope — which serves the plot. There’s a knitting circle that feels like what Dahlia’s crowd will become in 30 years, and her interacting with them feels a bit more fitting.

The book is just as amusing as its predecessors, I literally laughed out loud a few times — not at big comic moments, but at a line of dialogue or a quip Dahlia makes. The big comic moments worked for me, but not as effectively. As always, half the fun is from the very odd circumstances that Dahlia finds herself, but the other half of the fun is the way Dahlia narrates things, the metaphors, pop culture references, etc. Yeah, I thought the Mad Men references were a little too close to each other — but I appreciated both of them so much, I didn’t care (also, pairing Joan Holloway with Della Street? Perfect). One of the things that the writers behind MST3K always said that when they go for super-specific references that are obscure, they know that not all viewers will get the joke, but those that do will love it. There’s a half-chapter in this book (and a couple of call-backs to it later) that I could swear was written just for me. And, yes, I loved it (I didn’t give the book a bonus 1/2 star because of it, but I thought about it).

There’s some maturing — at least indicators that maturing and responsibility are on the horizon for ol’ Dahlia. It reminded me of Lutz’ The Last Word in that respect, but I had a lot more fun with this The Astonishing Mistakes than I did with Izzy Spellman’s swan song (not that this is necessarily the end of Dahlia’s adventures, though it’s always seemed to be marketed as a trilogy). It’s good to see that trajectory with Dahlia (and, honestly, her roommate).

Other than that, there’s not much to differentiate this from the other two books in the series (as far as the writing goes, not the stories): the writing itself is fun, as is the story, a good mix of serious subject matter and comedic moments (none that detract from the tragedy of murder or anything). There’s some good character moments and a decent mystery, too. If you haven’t read any of Dahlia Moss’ adventures, you should grab one and dive in — this one will work just as well as the first or second. In the end, you’ll want to read all three.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Orbit Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

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The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

Yeah, this is a strange time for me to post, but I felt like Dahlia challenged me to. You’ll get it when you read the book.

The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia MossThe Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss

by Max Wirestone
Series: Dahlia Moss, #3

eARC, 352 pg.
Redhook, 2018

Read: December 21 – 22, 2017


I am so glad that this eARC asked me not to quote anything from the book until I could check with the published version because by the time I hit 5%, I’d already come up with a handful of candidates of quotations to start this post with, and I didn’t want to have to choose.

Literally picking up where The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss left off — with Emily Swenson asking Dahlia to be an industrial spy. She’s being sent to serve as a Temp in the offices of a game development company — they’re best known for a really simple game, the kind you play in line at the DMV or something, it’s relaxing. Still, it’s a gaming company and a pretty successful one at that — it’s the kind of place Dahlia should work (if she wasn’t becoming a detective). There’s another company about to buy them out, but they need some more information — there are rumors of problems in the office, are they true? Could they look at the existing code for the new version so someone can see why it’s delayed?

Dahlia jumps at the assignment — which is good, because otherwise the novel would be a very short, and pretty dull, story. She shows up for her first day to find, well, chaos? Chaos seems to be an understatement. She starts to acclimate pretty quickly and is behaving more professionally than just about anyone in the office. If Dahilia is the standard of professional behavior, that tells you everything you need to know about the rest. Oh, and then Dahlia finds a dead body. Now in addition to her Industrial Espionage work, there’s maybe a murder for her to look into in her spare time.

The problems she faces staying staying incognito: The detective in charge of investigating the murder/suspicious death knows about her from Shuler. There’s a reporter sniffing around — and scheduled to tour the company — who’s written about her exploits. Her friends can’t stop saying things to her coworkers about her being a detective. And, well, she’s just not that subtle of an investigator — she largely pulls it off, but that’s primarily due to the company being in turmoil and no one having a lot of attention to devote to the question “why is our temp asking all these questions?”

Part of the fun of these books has been watching Dahlia flail around, unsure what to do next. There’s less of that here — she’s learning. I’m not suggesting that she’s transformed herself into Kinsey Millhone or Joan Watson, but there’s something about her that’s less flailing. Maybe because she has some pretty clear objectives this time out. I liked that hint of growing skills. Not bad for someone with a recent concussion.

Now, to the rest of the cast: the people in the office, by and large, feel like characters from other series. Gamers, SF geeks, cosplayers . . . those seem like people Dahlia interacts with. Responsible adults with steady jobs? Nope — which serves the plot. There’s a knitting circle that feels like what Dahlia’s crowd will become in 30 years, and her interacting with them feels a bit more fitting.

The book is just as amusing as its predecessors, I literally laughed out loud a few times — not at big comic moments, but at a line of dialogue or a quip Dahlia makes. The big comic moments worked for me, but not as effectively. As always, half the fun is from the very odd circumstances that Dahlia finds herself, but the other half of the fun is the way Dahlia narrates things, the metaphors, pop culture references, etc. Yeah, I thought the Mad Men references were a little too close to each other — but I appreciated both of them so much, I didn’t care (also, pairing Joan Holloway with Della Street? Perfect). One of the things that the writers behind MST3K always said that when they go for super-specific references that are obscure, they know that not all viewers will get the joke, but those that do will love it. There’s a half-chapter in this book (and a couple of call-backs to it later) that I could swear was written just for me. And, yes, I loved it (I didn’t give the book a bonus 1/2 star because of it, but I thought about it).

There’s some maturing — at least indicators that maturing and responsibility are on the horizon for ol’ Dahlia. It reminded me of Lutz’ The Last Word in that respect, but I had a lot more fun with this The Astonishing Mistakes than I did with Izzy Spellman’s swan song (not that this is necessarily the end of Dahlia’s adventures, though it’s always seemed to be marketed as a trilogy). It’s good to see that trajectory with Dahlia (and, honestly, her roommate).

Other than that, there’s not much to differentiate this from the other two books in the series (as far as the writing goes, not the stories): the writing itself is fun, as is the story, a good mix of serious subject matter and comedic moments (none that detract from the tragedy of murder or anything). There’s some good character moments and a decent mystery, too. If you haven’t read any of Dahlia Moss’ adventures, you should grab one and dive in — this one will work just as well as the first or second. In the end, you’ll want to read all three.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Orbit Books via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this.

—–

4 Stars

The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia MossThe Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss

by Max Wirestone
Series: Dahlia Moss, #2

Paperback, 312 pg.
Redhook, 2017

Read: May 16 – 17, 2017

“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.

—–

3.5 Stars
2017 Library Love Challenge

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone

The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia MossThe Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss

by Max Wirestone
Series: Dahlia Moss, #1


Hardcover, 304 pg.
Redhook, 2015
Read: October 26 – 27, 2015

So Dahlia Moss needs a job in a pretty bad way — she’s been unemployed for about two years, doesn’t interview well, has less than $20 in the back and is crashing with a friend who’s been super cool about things — but that can’t last forever. Her last relationship ended badly, and she’s lost contact with about everyone but the friend with the great apartment.

So when a complete stranger (who clearly has more money than he knows what to do with) shows up and offers her $2,000 to do a job she knows she’s not qualified for, she jumps at it without much thought. Even when the job is a little on the ridiculous side. Jonah plays an MMORPG called Kingdoms of Zoth, which is like World of Warcraft for people who are too into MMORPGS’s to play something as mainstream as WoW. Recently, someone stole a one-of-a-kind weapon from him, the “Bejeweled Spear of Infinite Piercing,” and he’d like Dahlia (no stranger to Zoth, but not a pro) to track down the thief and retrieve the spear.

Dahlia likes the idea of being a P.I., thinks this case looks pretty easy, and did I mention the $2,000? So she dives in and just starts to make progress when Jonah is found murdered. His family (who has more money than he does) wants her to finish the job, and promises an obscene amount of money for the successful completion of her hunt.

Dahlia doesn’t have someone like Hawk or Joe Pike, she has Charice. Charice is a force of nature — she has a really nice job in PR, has friends in more industries than you can count, and doesn’t take “no” for anything approximating an answer. She believes in Dahlia, and thinks that this whole thing is a hoot — and would probably be egging her on even if she thought it was a disaster.

The rest of the supporting characters are almost as entertaining — from the detectives investigating the murder, to the co-workers at the university who are a tad jealous of him, his guildmates in Zoth (and their off-line counterparts) — they’re all quirky, off-beat and amusing (as is Dahlia’s appraisal and characterization of them). Even the funeral director that we meet for a couple of pages pulls his weight.

But Dahlia is the star — its her voice, her jokes, her outlook on life that drive this thing. If you took Lisa Lutz’ Izzy Spellman and Michael R. Underwood’s Ree Reyes, combined their DNA you’d get Dahlia. Actually, just that procedure sounds like an entertaining read. Now, I really can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t like her, but I’m sure people like that are out there. If you don’t like her after the first chapter, put this one aside and grab the next one down on your TBR pile.

I don’t know if I’ve read a mystery set in St. Louis before. Or anything set there before – well, didn’t Riordan set a demigod battle there? Anyway, while I’m not suggesting that I got a good feel for the city, it was a start, and I’d like to see more. There’s also a trip to a gaming convention that sounds on-the-nose. Probably her time in Zoth captured the feel of such a place, I don’t know.

It’s pretty-well paced, and the mix of personal stories with her detecting keep the mood and illustrate Dahlia’s mindset (and the gradual character growth she goes through). By the end, when she’s focused on earning the money and figuring everything out, things pick up straight-through to the action-packed and very slapsticky end (very amusing to visualize this).

You don’t have to be a geek (or know any) to enjoy this — but it’d help. I do have to admit, I had to enlist the help of my son to decode one “hard-core Pokémon reference” that Dahlia made, and had to google a literary reference that I should’ve remembered. But if you didn’t take those steps, it wouldn’t detract much from your appreciation (my son was at work when I came across it, so it was hours before he could explain it to me).

Outlandish? Yup. Almost as Fantasy-based as Zoth itself? Absolutely. But you know what? I just don’t care. This book is too much fun to worry about things like that — a breezy, goofy read that’s sure to please. I hope there’s more to come from Wirestone, whether it’s with these characters or another batch, I look forward to seeing what comes next.

—–

3.5 Stars