Charlie and Rose are back for a fourth adventure. Noir with a conscience. Beautifully and originally written. Thought provoking, compelling, unique.
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Let’s get the bias out of the way up front, regular readers will know I’m a fan of Jo Perry and her wonderful Charlie and Rose series. The style is original yet somehow classic, the characters are fully realized and compelling. LA runs through these books, LA is in the lifeblood of these stories, in all of its often contradictory glory. A sense of place is fundamental in what Jo writes, it anchors the stories in a grimy, relatable reality. And they are full of heart, they challenge you to see the world around you, they challenge your comfortable privilege and compel you to examine these characters’ and situations for parallels in your own world. So yeah, I love these books. And the stories she tells combined with every online conversation I have ever had with Jo convince me that she is a wonderful and compassionate human being of the type we need more of in this world. The review that follows is through this lens, I hope that doesn’t put you off reading further, but it does and you decide to depart now, no hard feelings.
Dead is Beautiful is the fourth Charlie and Rose mystery. Just to re-cap, Charlie and Rose are dead. Charlie is a rich heir to a children’s TV empire, shot and killed in the street near his home. Rose is a dog, left to die by a callous owner, hungry, thirsty and alone. In life Charlie didn’t do a lot, didn’t see a lot. In death, he sees far more and is in his own way determined to atone for what he sees as wasted opportunity in life. He tries to help and influence events in the world of the living for the better.
Our story this time out, finds him looking in on his ‘shit brother’ Mark and his wife Helen in the Hollywood hills. We also find ourselves diving into the world of the ultra rich. Jo often takes on social issues in her work, Dead is Beautiful is no different. Taking aim at ‘stop at nothing’ corporations wanting to develop natural beauty spots for profit, destroying habitats and lives in the process. Our story challenges us to examine privilege and the extent to which some are willing to go to protect it. In the days of the climate strikes and extinction rebellion, Dead is Beautiful feels like a timely story with an important message about conservation and development at the cost of the environment.
Oh and there’s a character based on Fahrenheit founder Chris McVeigh, McGurk is a loud Scotsman, with a well-defined sense of morality and who will quite happily throw a punch where one is needed. Can’t imagine why he’s based on Chris…
As always with this series, the writing is noir at its best. Short sharp sentences, short sharp chapters. Often saying more with what is left unwritten, Jo is wonderfully skilled at pointing you in a direction and letting you fill in the gaps on your own. There is a tacit understanding that a person’s imagination is far more powerful if you give them a suggestion and leave them to it. Harnessing this allows Jo to pack quite the emotional punch throughout without ever resorting to mawkish prose. As a Charlie and Rose tale, Dead is Beautiful does not disappoint. As a noir tale, it’s a masterclass in the form.