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Monday, December 24, 2012

Thrill City by Leigh Redhead

My copy of Thrill City (pub. Allen & Unwin) has been lying on my bookshelf for over a year and I was happy to rediscover it just last week. It prompted me to put aside the book I was in the process of reading and immerse myself in another Simone Kirsch investigation.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the work of Leigh Redhead, she has written a private investigator series featuring former stripper and now occasional PI Simone Kirsch. Thrill City is the fourth book in the series following on from Peepshow, Rubdown and Cherry Pie. The series borders on the edge of the hardboiled realm tempered by the inclusion of a witty and occasionally cynical turn of phrase to keep things just light enough to raise the occasional smirk.

My Brief Review

As for Thrill City, it opens with the news that Kirsch has finally become a licensed private investigator and is now able to strike out on her own. The Melbourne-based former stripper is going to have a go at making a go of it alone and is settling into the job of snapping photos of workers comp insurance scam artists and the like.

The mundane, everyday life of the PI is broken up when crime author Nick Austin walks into her office and asks that she allow him to ride along with her for a couple of days so that he can research for his next novel. It’s easy money for Kirsch and she agrees to the proposition. But there’s no such thing as easy money and a series of weird scenes at a weekend writer’s convention winds up with a dead body with Simone plunked right in the middle.

Nick Austin disappears and the police are on his trail with Simone now key to their inquiries. The action moves fast and culminates in an exciting showdown that starts in Broken Hill and finishes well into the empty expanses of the Australian desert.

When Simone Kirsch works as a PI the story flows quickly and smoothly and it remains consistently interesting. The problem I had, and this is coming from a reader who prefers the hardboiled genre, was that personal issues were continually allowed to get in the way of the story which severely hampered its flow. Simone was way too concerned with how her boyfriend, Sean, would react to her investigation (he didn’t react well) and she was repeatedly intimidated and restricted by other male characters in her life. It definitely bogged down the story with a lot of unnecessary guff.

Too often Kirsch was hamstrung by worries about what other people thought. Would Sean approve? Would he get angry with her for investigating? Who Cares! I found myself getting irritated with her hesitancy, pleading with her to get on and investigate the damn case. After all, that was why I opened the pages of the book in the first place.

When she finally throws caution to the wind it is as if the chain that was holding her back snaps and the everything goes into fast forward in an out of control rush. She lurches into unstoppable action as she goes all out on her search for the missing Nick Austin. All hell breaks loose in fine fashion and we are treated to a free-flowing ending.

It is obvious that Redhead has had some fun with her treatment of the crime fiction literary field taking a few stabs at the profession in which she herself works. There is a sense of fun over the way some authors are portrayed as well as a few stabs at the literary establishment.

Thrill City drags Simone Kirsch further into the private investigation profession, dirties her up a bit and probably adds a scar or two, if not physically then definitely mentally. It appears that there is more work in store for Kirsch to throw herself at.

Thrill City can be bought from the following locations: for US based readers. for UK based readers. for Australian readers

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