It’s the Harlem Renaissance, though for young women like Louise Lloyd, scraping by as a waitress, the glamour is superficial while the struggle is real. By day she works at Maggie’s Cafe and by night she dances up a storm with her roommate who she loves and her roommate’s brother at The Zodiac despite the ever-present risk of a police raid. But then there are the Dead Dead Girls.

When a young woman is murdered and Lou finds her body outside Maggie’s, she knows there must be a serial killer at work. So do the police and when she is arrested after a raid, Detective Gilbert, who is in charge of the case, gives her an ultimatum, help solve the case by questioning the witnesses who are reluctant to trust the police (for good reason,) or go to jail.

Asking her to investigate isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. In her teens, she was kidnapped and managed to rescue herself and the other girls held by her captor. She is the “Harlem Hero” and that reputation brings some expectations. She begins her investigation by going to the girls who worked with murdered girls and then to their families. There are a few red herrings, but most of the investigation is through the accretion of one clue after another.

Dead Dead Girls is a fair mystery. No unseen, unknown murderer pops up in the end. Since Louise loved music so much, I will describe the pace as staccato. Transitions were often abrupt. It was also frustrating as when there is a known serial killer preying on women who work at clubs, why then does she go out and about at night as though she had armed escorts. It seems unlikely she would be so heedless of her own jeopardy. The denouement was fair but hasty. There’s all this buildup and then it’s over in a minute. We need more payoff when the killer is caught. Nonetheless, there are many good points to the book. The sense of place is fantastic and I love how the motif of music is carried through. I liked Lou and think could become a great series. Since this is the first in the series, it may just have some growing pains.

I received an e-galley of Dead Dead Girls from the publisher through NetGalley.