The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss, by Max Wirestone (2015)

Mystery
15 to Adult
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia MossJigglypuff, the Kingdom of Zoth, Treants, and in-game emails – if these are all familiar to you, AND you like mysteries, this is the book for you. Dumped by her boyfriend for a dental hygienist while in a long bout of unemployment, Dahlia Moss is nearing the end of her supply of ramen and trying to find bank machines that dispense bills smaller than a twenty. Suddenly things start looking up. Jonah Long hires her as a detective, paying her $2000 (half now, half when she’s finished) to recover the Bejeweled Spear of Infinite Piercings, a digital icon stolen from him in the online game Zoth. And he gives her the name of the thief – how could she say no to such a lucrative offer? Her credentials are nonexistent, other than a brief stint as a receptionist for a private detective, but Jonah is undeterred. He tells her she’s the one for the job, and she needs the cash, so she agrees to meet the thief. But when Jonah is murdered before she finishes the job, Dahlia is hired once again to find the spear, this time by his grieving family. Dahlia gets to work sorting suspects from bystanders among the fairies, ninjas, harpies and healers of Zoth. It’s Veronica Mars meets Big Bang Theory, and it works. I’m not into gaming so a lot of references went over my head, and I sometimes found myself struggling to stay interested, but there is a lot here for non-geeks as well. Dahlia is most appealing as a character – flawed, funny, and razor-sharp. Author Wirestone is a librarian in New Hampshire and probably in a children’s library, given his references to Mad Libs, Pokemon, Encyclopedia Brown, and Harry Potter – all sure to delight every bookworm’s heart. Equally enchanting for me is a seance scene in which the ghost of Wilfrid Laurier laments the fact no one at the table has heard of him. “Americans,” he scoffs, before announcing himself as “Canada’s most famous prime minister.” He then backs off slightly: “Well, top ten.” Add in a music librarian who corrects Dahlia’s misuse of the word harp, a cute cop who’s a closet geek, an impossibly cheerful roommate, and an acerbic bank teller, and you have an irresistible cast of characters in a mystery that will keep you interested even if the fantasy world doesn’t. My thanks to the publisher for the advance reading copy via NetGalley.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25162644
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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