It may sound an odd thing to say about a novel set on the seedier streets of post-Katrina New Orleans and featuring blackmail, bereavement, deception and gory ritualistic murders by a serial killer, but “Dead Easy” was a fun read.
It reminded me of the kind of TV show that I can relax into because, even when murder is involved, things will stay hopeful. “Dead Easy” is much more like watching an episode of “Rizzoli & Isles ” than an episode of “Criminal Minds”.
“Dead Easy” has a strong, twisty plot that is nicely paced although perhaps just a little too dependent on some fairly unlikely coincidences.
The New Orleans setting adds to the atmosphere of the novel and goes beyond the tourist clichés, letting me feel that I’d actually been somewhere new (although not a particularly nice or safe somewhere new. The New Orleans Tourist Office won’t be promoting this view of their city).
Perhaps because all the main characters in “Dead Easy” are at least twenty years old, the book has been marketed as a straight mystery/thriller/amateur sleuth novel but, to me, it has the feel of a novel for young adults and quite nice young adults at that. The identical twin sisters at the heart of the book are twenty years old, have just completed their first year at college, have been through months of trauma and grief and guilt and yet they think and behave with a wholesome innocence I haven’t seen outside “The Waltons”. The odd thing is that I liked this aspect of the novel. After all the jaded, voyeuristic, told by badly broken people, stories that there are out there, it was refreshing to meet nice people.
They’re nice but they’re not wimps. They dive into fights, using their fists and their feet, they take on the bad guys and they show great courage. All of which somehow makes them nicer.
A couple of things jarred with me. In the early chapters, we’re told that one of the sisters sees ghost and can sense the presence of evil. Given the setting was New Orleans, the plot involved ritual killings and the sister with the sight gave dressed like a Goth and gave graveyard tours, I was sure I was in for a bit of (very welcome) supernatural mystery. Sadly, her sight turned out not to be particularly germane to the plot. I’m with Chekhov on this one:
“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
The second thing that bothered me was the proofing errors. There were a few endings that disagreed, a couple of slips in tense, and the odd missing word. Jana Oliver writes too well to be let down by this kind of proofing.
So, if you’re looking for a mystery that will wrinkle your brow but not turn your stomach and you’re in the mood for nice, hopeful people overcoming the odds, settle down with “Dead Easy” and have a fun afternoon.
If you’re interested, you’ll find it on Kindle for just $4.95