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Book Review: Better Off Dead

Reviewed By: Carl Brookins - RAM

[3.5 stars]

Better Off Dead     Amazon US PB Amazon Canada PB
Katy Munger
Class/Genre:   Mystery   Humorous   Woman Main Character
Series: Casey Jones # 5
Avon Mystery, 2001 paperback, pp 294

Casey Jones is a big, rollicking, smartmouth with a wicked sense of humor, and a jaundiced view of the world. Her view of the world applies particularly to personal human relationships. She’s a lot like her creator. And she’s a lot of fun to hang around. Her adventures are modern, important and well-worth reading about. Unfortunately, too often for this reviewer (and this may be purely personal taste) Casey has to rely on others to get her out of some really bad scrapes.

Still, we read these adventures, and look forward to more, because watching Casey choose to take on certain cases, deal with her friends and colleagues, maneuver through thickets of evil and dangerous people, not to mention her often convoluted love life,is just a whole lot of fun.

Casey Jones is an under-the-table private investigator. Because of an unfortunate past she’s unable to obtain a private investigator’s license in North Carolina where she hangs out. And she certainly isn’t permitted to carry a weapon. But she has an accommodating partner, Bobby D., for whom Casey seems to do most of the work.

This case concerns a professor at Duke University named Helen McInnes who was the victim of a particularly violent crime, including attempted murder. Although she never saw her attacker, she has accused a fellow academic of the crime. Her attacker is acquitted and the combination of the crime and the acquittal have so traumatized the woman, she has developed agoraphobia and cannot even venture onto her own front porch. And now, she’s being besieged by evil and vicious mail and telephone attacks, apparently from the same man.

Casey, of course, agrees to look into the case and the more she learns, the more inflamed becomes her ire. Into the case come her police contact, Marcus, her boyfriend Burly, her partner Bobby D, and his current girlfriend, Fanny, as well as some new characters. As befits noirish P.I. novels, this one is very plot driven. Nevertheless, Munger does an admirable job of bringing these many characters and their foibles to vibrant life.

As one has learned to expect from Munger’s writing, the pace is fast, the dialogue sings and the mordant humor is well-placed. This is a very well written novel, has been well and carefully edited and deserves a place on the bookshelves of anyone who is a fan of the hard-boiled P.I. novel.

Carl Brookins - RAM

Reprinted with permission. Do Not repost without permission from the author, Carl Brookins - RAM

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