Veronica Mars meets the World of Warcraft in The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss, a mystery romp with a most unexpected heroine.
If it were up to me this book would be called Hilarious Things That Happened That Were Not At All Dahlia's Fault -- or HTTHTWNAADF, for short.
OK, I probably shouldn't have taken money from a mysterious eccentric to solve a theft, given that I'm not a detective, and that I am sometimes outwitted by puzzles in children's video games. I probably shouldn't have stolen bags of trash from a potential murder suspect. Arguably -- just arguably, mind you -- it may have been unwise to cos-play at an event where I was likely to be shot at.
But sometimes you just have to take some chances, right? And maybe things do get a little unfortunate. What of it? If you ask me, an unfortunate decision here or there can change your life. In a positive way, just so long you don't killed in the process. Admittedly, that's the tricky bit.
Wirestone's debut features the snarky Dahlia Moss, an unemployed thirty-something woman tasked with solving a virtual mystery that escalates into an actual murder. Her wildly spontaneous roommate, Charice, introduces Dahlia to the ultra-wealthy Jonah Long, who hires Dahlia to be a detective and find "the Bejeweled Spear of Infinite Piercing" that was stolen from him in a game called Zoth, an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game). Jonah hires Dahlia because she's familiar with the game and briefly temped as a receptionist at a detective agency, but when Jonah is murdered with a replica of the missing virtual spear, the stakes rise for Dahlia. As Dahlia begins playing Zoth looking for clues, the book loses steam, which it continues to do as she familiarizes herself with people in Jonah's real and virtual life to see if she can find his killer and the person who stole the spear. The convoluted plot overwhelms the author's attempts at witty repartee and humor. This story will mainly appeal to gamers.
As a first peek into a new title, this was a solid effort –
Dahlia is a train wreck, albeit the train with the cow-catcher snugged on with duct tape, a few cracks in the windscreen and a curious mix of shiny and scrap-heaped cars following the engine. But there is joy to be found in the repeated mishaps, and a level of admiration for the heroine, Dahlia, and her willingness to turn the next corner even as all her experience says things will not go well.
A story full of nerdy RPG references, the unemployed and without prospects Dahlia is hired to find a stolen in-game item, which quickly morphs into a real-world murder mystery, where the victim is felled by the same item that Dahlia has been hired to find. More on the lines of a loosely plotted I Love Lucy Episode, the story never truly grabs onto any sense that this is more than a fantasy, I kept expecting this story to be a Dali-esque dream retelling, with perhaps Spielberg and Heinlein providing some of the elements.
While I do realize this was an ARC copy, the story was rough in construct: grammatical errors that should have been cleared before review copies were completed did make this read difficult. And there was a curious lack of development in Dahlia, her repeated fallback position was a cutesy comment or yet another outrageous plan destined to go awry: at some point I wanted her to LEARN something, but I will admit that the situations and extrications did have me laughing out loud. Often.
As a first peek into a new title, this was a solid effort – I hope that editing will tighten up the character weaknesses and fix the grammar, letting this story show the unique and quirky plot as just that, and not one that is consciously (and occasionally painfully) attempting to be funny and quirky. A fun read that needs work but shows some promise.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.