Charlie and Rose are back. Their third mystery post mortem. Still surprising, still full of heart. Unique and compelling story telling at its best. Grips from the first page to the last. Classic Fahrenheit.
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Charlie and Rose books are actually quite difficult to review, putting across just what Jo Perry achieves in these truly unique novels would actually require Jo Perry’s talents with the English language. But seeing as Jo can’t really review her own books, in this case you’re stuck with me a little longer, I hope I can do this story and its author justice.
Dead is Good sees Charlie and Rose back following the living around after the death of Charlies ex sister in law Hope. Hope’s death throws up a lot of questions that Charlie needs to find answers for, the pursuit of such takes us on another trip around Los Angeles and exposes the darker side of society. Taking in gangs, money laundering, exploitation and the many quirks of family dynamics along the way. While elements of the story may feel familiar, the way in which it is told and the focus that Jo places on compassion through the character of Rose is what makes the book unique.
For those who may be coming to the Charlie and Rose books for the first time through #Fahrenbruary, I should clarify a couple of things here. Charlie is dead. Rose is dead. In life Charlie was a rich man thanks to his father’s success and Rose was an abused dog who died hungry and thirsty tied to a post. Charlie and Rose found each other in death, or did Rose find Charlie and is helping him navigate his new plane of existence. A question that’s never directly answered and I’ll leave you to drawn your own conclusions. I often think of Rose as Charlies conscience, keeping him honest and making sure he doesn’t miss anything. Despite her painful existence, Rose has a huge heart and hates to see other suffer as she did, getting visibly upset when she does.
As with previous entries in the series, Dead is Better and Dead is Best, Jo shines a light on sections of society we may not see, drawing our attention to the reality behind the façade and through Charlie and Rose’s ability to get where a living detective couldn’t, forces us to face these truths. In the case of Dead is Good, the exploitation of garment workers forced on to poverty wages in horrendous conditions, money laundering, illegal animal importation all come in for examination. Making you stop to think about the real life implications of the story you are reading, underpinned by a remarkable talent for combining the realism required for this with the fantastical elements of our lead character’s both being, well, dead.
All this makes the book sound deadly serious, which isn’t the case. These stories all have a very black sense of humor and Dead is Good is no exception. Jo’s clipped prose style, so beloved of classic noir writers and readers alike, once again drives the story and the character forward at a great pace. And what great character’s we get to know, nuanced and interesting, flawed people brought to life beautifully. No basic good vs evil stereotypes here, although the ‘bad guys’ in this tale are genuinely nasty pieces of work happy to exploit fellow human beings for profit. The good guys are people trying to do their best to have a positive impact on the world, in often difficult circumstances.
Despite being almost 100 pages longer than previous entries in the series, this extra space feels simply like what was needed to tell the tale. It’s not filler by any stretch, the story keeps up the pace throughout culminating with some detailed and imaginative set pieces. There is a day of the dead sequence that is particularly fascinating to read, seeing that celebration from the perspective of the dead puts a wonderful and, typically for Jo, thought provoking spin on the festival.
Charlie and Rose are always good company, Dead is Good is no exception. The next story, Dead is Beautiful, is due out during #Fahrenbruary and I for one can’t wait.