Review: Dead is Better by Jo Perry from Fahrenheit Press

Available to buy direct from Fahrenheit Press at:

E-Book

Paperback

Limited Edition Hardback

(I believe a very few copies remain of the Hardback, its so pretty, if you decide to buy one DM the lovely Jo Perry who will send you a signed book plate to go in the front)

image1signed JP

About a dead guy and a dog. Darkly comic, thought provoking, full of heart. Counts Eric Idle amongst its fan base. Unique. 

Dead is Better is a Fahrenheit Press classic, a thoroughly deserved reputation. Jo Perry has crafted a detailed mystery thriller with incredible heart and the real punk rock spirit that defines Fahrenheit. The story follows Charlie, the black sheep in a very wealthy family, who finds himself rather suddenly deceased. With only a dog, whom he names Rose, for company and no idea how it happened. Certain he has been murdered, Charlie sets out to discover how, why and by whom.

Jo’s story draws you into Charlie’s bizarre world, definitely dead but still hanging around and with no way to communicate what’s going on to the living. We observe the world of the living through Charlie, allowing a fresh take on the mystery genre as our protagonist listens in on conversations and situations that we would not otherwise be privy to. Charlie sees the true nature of people coming out when they think they are unobserved, both for good and ill. He has a spiritual awakening of sorts and starts to regret what he did, or rather didn’t do, in life. Thought provoking for sure. Charlie challenges you to get off your ass and do something about the things you care about. Something, anything.

And then there’s the dog. Rose is the beating heart of the book, a wonderfully nuanced character who acts as Charlie’s conscience in much the same way Jiminy Cricket does in Pinocchio. Without the talking. That Jo is able to convey such depth through a canine character is a testament to her ability and to her evident love of dogs. Rose provides the compassion in death that Charlie lacked in life and makes Charlie a better person for it. It’s in Rose’s storyline that the book has its greatest impact. Natural assumptions you make as a reader at the beginning of the story will be rapidly challenged by Rose.

Jo’s prose is concise and almost poetic in its structure, very noir in its style and reminiscent of the short punchy sentences and chapters most associated with novels of the 40s, 50s and 60s. I’m especially thinking of the way James M Cain writes. Cain is a noir legend and with good reason, his prose in Double Indemnity is the gold standard of noir writing in my view. Jo Perry is at that level. And if anyone tries to tell me that its not a noir novel, I’ll simply steal from Fahrenheit once again. Its noir if I fucking say its noir.

Pitch black humour runs throughout the story and I found myself laughing to myself at oddly inappropriate times. I won’t say much more on that as I might enter into spoiler territory. But don’t just take my word for it, this book counts Eric Idle amongst its fans, if a Python says its funny, its funny.

Dead is Better is a mystery thriller full of heart and humour, without every tripping over into preachy or into overstated emotional blackmail. I was left wanting to spend more time with both characters, I was moved by the finale and the compassion shown for those that are often cruelly overlooked in life. This is noir with a social conscience and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Matt

@ThatMattKeyes

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