The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss
by Max Wirestone
Review by Ernest Lilley
Redhook Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: B072FNG9SW
Date: 09 January 2018
The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss is quirky and delightful, even if I had to look the other way while our heroine steals the new game's code for her unknown client. Murder is only murder, but IP theft is serious stuff. Oh well. Ms. Moss hasn't stepped up to investigation as a professional, breezing through in her ad-hoc style, but she's thinking about it, and a certain amount of this book is about deciding to take the plunge. Commitment hasn't been the 26-year old's strong suit, as witnessed by the lack of steady employment and some romantic confusion. She's fond of her nominal boyfriend, Nathan (sexy biologist), but distracted by the inexplicably, sort of alluring police detective (Anson). Unlike her previous adventures, this one is more madcap than mystery, despite the body she finds in the storeroom, but all the characters are fun and the seeds laid here should pay off in further stories.
Dahlia Moss isn't technically a private investigator, she's taken a few courses, found a few corpses (this is her third book) and solved some crimes in geekdom. In the first book she got shot, in the second she got a concussion, which she's still a little woozy from, and she's been kidnapped repeatedly along the way. Ms. Moss has a quirky sense of humor, a delightful cast of friends, and a mysterious lawyer-with-money who occasionally drops assignments into her lap. Which is how she gets a temp job at a games app developer as cover for some industrial espionage.
Author Max Wirestone has nailed the geek culture of small game development companies perfectly. Cahaba Apps has been acquired by a major game house and the pressure is on for them to release their next game, but things aren't going well. Dahlia is supposed to be immersed in geek culture, so I have no idea what she was thinking when she put on a pro-receptionist outfit and shows up early with a bag of pastries to her first day. Well. The pastries were a good thought.
Inside Cahaba she startles most of the programming staff by waking them up and not being the receptionist they were used to. They're on perpetual crunch time and it's not a pretty sight. In fact, someone's Significant Other has posted a letter on Reddit explaining what a terrible place it is. Then there's the body she finds in the storage room. Of course, there's a body.
Along the way, we get to see Dahlia work on the love triangle she's sort of in, which she sensibly points out is more like a love "V" since neither Nathan Willing (sexy biologist) or Anson Shuler (inexplicably, sort of alluring police detective) are likely to run off together. And maybe Dahlia can set up that kind of cute guy from corporate who broke up with his goth-girlfriend with one of her friends? See? It's not all murder and no fun.
The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss is quirky and delightful, even if I had to look the other way when our heroine steals the new game's code for her unknown client. Murder is only murder, but IP theft is serious stuff. Oh well.
The mystery aspect of this caper is a bit muddled, and the book reads more like a romp through cyber corp hell than a tale malicious mayhem, though that doesnít keep it from being fun. At one point Ms. Moss lets the reader know that this is the point in the book where there would normally be a chase scene, and provides a toolkit for writing your own, though the plot fails to require one. Looking over the first two books, which chronicle Ms. Moss's Unfortunate Decisions and Astonishing Mistakes respectively I expect you'll find somewhat more traditionally structured mysteries, though I havenít read them yet.