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Dead Dead Girls

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The start of an exciting new historical mystery series set in 1920s Harlem featuring Louise Lloyd, a young black woman caught up in a series of murders way too close to home... Harlem, 1926. Young black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead. Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. S The start of an exciting new historical mystery series set in 1920s Harlem featuring Louise Lloyd, a young black woman caught up in a series of murders way too close to home... Harlem, 1926. Young black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead. Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She's succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie's Café and her nights at the Zodiac, Manhattan's hottest speakeasy. Louise's friends might say she's running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don't tell her that. When a girl turns up dead in front of the café, Louise is forced to confront something she's been trying to ignore--several local black girls have been murdered over the past few weeks. After an altercation with a local police officer gets her arrested, Louise is given an ultimatum: She can either help solve the case or let a judge make an example of her. Louise has no choice but to take the case and soon finds herself toe-to-toe with a murderous mastermind. She'll have to tackle her own fears and the prejudices of New York City society if she wants to catch a killer and save her own life in the process.


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The start of an exciting new historical mystery series set in 1920s Harlem featuring Louise Lloyd, a young black woman caught up in a series of murders way too close to home... Harlem, 1926. Young black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead. Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. S The start of an exciting new historical mystery series set in 1920s Harlem featuring Louise Lloyd, a young black woman caught up in a series of murders way too close to home... Harlem, 1926. Young black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead. Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She's succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie's Café and her nights at the Zodiac, Manhattan's hottest speakeasy. Louise's friends might say she's running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don't tell her that. When a girl turns up dead in front of the café, Louise is forced to confront something she's been trying to ignore--several local black girls have been murdered over the past few weeks. After an altercation with a local police officer gets her arrested, Louise is given an ultimatum: She can either help solve the case or let a judge make an example of her. Louise has no choice but to take the case and soon finds herself toe-to-toe with a murderous mastermind. She'll have to tackle her own fears and the prejudices of New York City society if she wants to catch a killer and save her own life in the process.

30 review for Dead Dead Girls

  1. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Hooray! Look at this fantastic cover and tempting, mesmerizing atmosphere of 20’s Harlem: speakeasies, illegal booze, the beautiful women in shiny, gorgeous dresses dancing till the morning and dangerous killer out there to hunt the working black girls of the neighborhood! Aren’t you intrigued yet? I’m already sold! Louise Lloyd is hero of Harlem who fought against her kidnappers when she was only 15 and saved three other girls’ lives with her. She is adamant not to be a prey or a victim anymor Hooray! Look at this fantastic cover and tempting, mesmerizing atmosphere of 20’s Harlem: speakeasies, illegal booze, the beautiful women in shiny, gorgeous dresses dancing till the morning and dangerous killer out there to hunt the working black girls of the neighborhood! Aren’t you intrigued yet? I’m already sold! Louise Lloyd is hero of Harlem who fought against her kidnappers when she was only 15 and saved three other girls’ lives with her. She is adamant not to be a prey or a victim anymore at young age. She also resists the plans of her preacher, rigid, disciplined father who forces her to a marriage, leaving her house in early twenties to become a dancer but the competition was tough and as a young black girl it was more compelling to find your place in that ruthless world where being woman is already worthless and if you add the race to the equation, she is already doomed to fail. She plans to live in a group home temporarily, finding daytime job at a cafe as a waitress. But she falls in love with her roommate Rosa Maria. So she stops looking for another life, surrendering to her circumstances, hanging out at the Zodiac club at nighttime, drinking like a sponge, dancing till her feet bleed, smoking cigarettes like chimney as she continues her daytime job at Maggie’s coffee with less sleep and lack of energy. It’s some kind of self destructive life style she chose for her continues till she hits 26, tenth anniversary of her kidnapping. Her life suddenly changes as she finds dead black girl’s body who is only sixteen lies in front of her workplace and meets with officer Gilbert to testify. At the same night, she gets arrested as she tries to save a young girl from police officer’s assault. She slaps the guy, sitting at the jail to wait for how long she’ll be sentenced. But officer Gilbert offers her to work undercover for the police investigation to solve the dead girls’ case. She can befriend the girls and get more useful information from them. She’ll help or she’ll find herself at jail. She doesn’t have any chance to say no. She cooperates and find herself to catch a dangerous killer to reconcile the traumatic event she’s endured ten years ago. Overall: I loved Louise’s characterization from the beginning and I enjoyed the execution of the mystery. The twists are well developed and the ending was phenomenal. Only thing bothered me was choppy, abrupt chapter endings. I think they need a little editorial work but instead of that, I enjoyed my ride! It was epic historical thriller earned my four speakeasy, dancing till the dawn, intriguing, heart throbbing stars! Special thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for sharing this amazing digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    There is some choppy or abrupt moments in the prose and pacing, but overall, this was a wonderfully surprising historical mystery. I was expecting something akin to Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, and while the set pieces bear some similarities, this was a wonderfully dark serial killer thriller set in 1920s Harlem. I loved seeing a different kind of protagonist than we normally see in these books, and I found this to be a very page turning, satisfying mystery CW: racism & hate crimes There is some choppy or abrupt moments in the prose and pacing, but overall, this was a wonderfully surprising historical mystery. I was expecting something akin to Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, and while the set pieces bear some similarities, this was a wonderfully dark serial killer thriller set in 1920s Harlem. I loved seeing a different kind of protagonist than we normally see in these books, and I found this to be a very page turning, satisfying mystery CW: racism & hate crimes

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    Nekesa Afia’s own promotional copy (displayed at her Twitter account @nekesaafia) exceeds anything I could devise: “if you want a jazz age murder mystery starring a tiny, tired lesbian, look no further than DEAD DEAD GIRLS.” Afia’s a Canadian millennial and Dead Dead Girls is her debut novel, the first in a planned series of historical mysteries featuring young, Black, queer Louise Lloyd. Lloyd is in Prohibition-era Harlem, carrying a robust amount of psychological baggage as a survivor of a kidn Nekesa Afia’s own promotional copy (displayed at her Twitter account @nekesaafia) exceeds anything I could devise: “if you want a jazz age murder mystery starring a tiny, tired lesbian, look no further than DEAD DEAD GIRLS.” Afia’s a Canadian millennial and Dead Dead Girls is her debut novel, the first in a planned series of historical mysteries featuring young, Black, queer Louise Lloyd. Lloyd is in Prohibition-era Harlem, carrying a robust amount of psychological baggage as a survivor of a kidnapping several years prior to the beginning of the book and somewhat estranged from her parents, in a long-term relationship with another woman residing at the same rooming house, and dancing and drinking nightly at a local club, the Zodiac, when she runs afoul of a cop who blackmails her into becoming an amateur investigator of multiple murders of young Black women in her neighborhood. (Yeah, just go with it...) Nothing sets Afia’s online hair on fire like referring to Dead Dead Girls as a cozy mystery (her Twitter handle is Nekesa NOT A COZY AUTHOR Afia); however, I suspect her reaction reveals that she doesn’t want to buy into the confines of her perception of the cozy mystery genre even as she’s given us a likable woman amateur sleuth who is highly intuitive and bright, not taken seriously by the (white) detectives and surrounded by interesting secondary characters -- all the hallmarks of a cozy mystery, naturally. Harlem isn’t a small New England village, to be sure. But Afia's Harlem isn't Chester Himes' Harlem, 30 years prior; it isn't a gritty, threatening place. It's a neighborhood where everybody knows your name. Louise loses her job early on, but isn’t once worried about money or being unable to pay her rent, for example. I wasn’t for a moment worried for Louise’s physical safety, which is rather odd considering that much of the action takes place at night-time and Louise is inevitably on foot, unaccompanied, at 2 am. The sense of menace is abstract, even as the corpses pile up. On the plus side, the pacing is generally consistent, and her secondary characters (Rosa Maria and Rafael) are highly appealing. The thing is, the story Afia is interested in telling isn’t about who is killing those girls. They’re just a plot device. As a reader, only one corpse is a sad surprise. You’d be hard-pressed to name the victims, so undifferentiated and un-real are they, when you close the cover for the last time. I would bet $100 that Afia hasn’t read a contemporary mystery, ever, so when she reveals whom the killer is 65% or so of the way through, and does a careless, sloppy job of an ending, with almost no explanation of why the murderer took the lives of his victims, she doesn’t intend to frustrate reader-sleuths. She’s just not in to telling the mystery aspects of her story, and I doubt the second book will be any stronger in terms of the mystery-craft. She’s energized by something different – Louise, her friends, sisters, and peers, Harlem – centering her tiny, tired lesbian in her neighborhood, and her struggles – interior and exterior, equally. Look at the cover art. At first glance, it resembles a traditional genre cover – the font is feminine and the opposite of everything that is popular in cover design for 2021 literary fiction. The woman depicted is pretty, elegant, accessorized appropriately. But her expression? It suggests boredom, carelessness, alertness to her surroundings; a woman who is attractive, but not stunning, and not to be trifled with. She’s approachable, but jaded and can take care of herself. That cover says, this isn’t your mama’s cozy mystery. Maybe it’s yours, though. Maybe you’re in the mood for Afia’s boundless confidence as a writer, her elbows-out plot choices challenging you to accept what she’s done and begone if you don’t, her fierce love of the world she’s built and Louise. Dead Dead Girls is more than the sum of its parts. If you’re a lover of cozies, though? Don’t read it just to hate on it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    The Litt Librarian

    Read the full review over at The Litt Librarian! https://thelittlibrarian.wixsite.com/... I had DDG sitting in my virtual TBR list for a couple of months now, so I hope that this is the super early advance reader's copy that I received, because honey… I had two major issues with the book: How it was written and how the story panned out. The story itself wasn't bad. It has all the dressings to make a good gumbo. I simply think it needs another revision. The pacing was good, but the flow of the stor Read the full review over at The Litt Librarian! https://thelittlibrarian.wixsite.com/... I had DDG sitting in my virtual TBR list for a couple of months now, so I hope that this is the super early advance reader's copy that I received, because honey… I had two major issues with the book: How it was written and how the story panned out. The story itself wasn't bad. It has all the dressings to make a good gumbo. I simply think it needs another revision. The pacing was good, but the flow of the story is very choppy. Afia tried to create an air of suspense, but it came off lazy. The opening of the story started strong and clear. It introduces a young girl who experienced first-hand kidnapping and fast-forwarded that same girl's life ten years later. After her run-in with the police from a night of partying, the story started to fall flat for me. Where I considered DNFing, reached from the stupidity of the main character's thinking. To put it, that girl sucks at being a detective. All her moves were predictable and careless, and she had way too many feelings she couldn't explain but acted on impulse. I strongly recommend a revision. The book has potential, and I hope to see it, but for now, this ain't it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Flynn

    I absolutely LOVED this book. Such a powerful debut from a writer to watch, and Louise Lloyd is about to become your new favorite protagonist. I'm so glad this is a series to have more of Louise to look forward to! Superbly paced and impossible to put down. Five emphatic stars! I absolutely LOVED this book. Such a powerful debut from a writer to watch, and Louise Lloyd is about to become your new favorite protagonist. I'm so glad this is a series to have more of Louise to look forward to! Superbly paced and impossible to put down. Five emphatic stars!

  6. 4 out of 5

    CYIReadBooks (Claire)

    Louise Lloyd, age 15 at the time, escaped her kidnapper and saved three other girls from their captor. At the young age of 15, Louise became the famous “Harlem Hero.” Fast forward 10 years. Louise, now a young woman, is determined to lead a normal life. A life without the stigma of the “Harlem Hero.” In her determination, Louise undertakes a life filled with bootleg alcohol and dancing by night, and working the local cafe by day. Louise’s past cannot be forgotten as fears begin to mount in the nei Louise Lloyd, age 15 at the time, escaped her kidnapper and saved three other girls from their captor. At the young age of 15, Louise became the famous “Harlem Hero.” Fast forward 10 years. Louise, now a young woman, is determined to lead a normal life. A life without the stigma of the “Harlem Hero.” In her determination, Louise undertakes a life filled with bootleg alcohol and dancing by night, and working the local cafe by day. Louise’s past cannot be forgotten as fears begin to mount in the neighborhood. There is a kidnapper at large. A kidnapper that murders its victims. Tensions escalate and Louise is forced to assist in the murder investigations under the guise that white detectives aren’t able to penetrate the Harlem neighborhood for clues. Dead Dead Girls is not a high octane suspense, nor is it a jet fueled thriller. It is a steamship voyage into the Roaring Twenties and the Harlem Renaissance. It is an interesting and measured read. The characters are fascinating and the plot is not like your everyday “whodunnit.” Rather, the “who” is revealed, and the evidence needs to be proven. Not the typical format, but it is something different. However, I didn’t particularly like knowing the “who” as it didn’t seem like there was enough evidence to prove the alleged perpetrator guilty. Added to this, is the unlikely scenario that a common/layperson would be recruited to assist in any murder investigation — it was a little too far fetched for me. In any event, Dead Dead Girls is a decent read and worthy of two stars. It was okay. I received a digital ARC from Berkley Publishing Group through NetGalley. The review herein is completely my own and contains my honest thoughts and opinions.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lyn Liao

    I LOVED this book and Louise. I wish I could have known her, and gone out dancing and drinking with her back in the 20's. The book brings the 1920's in Harlem to life, to the point that I could picture Maggie's cafe and Zodiac, the speakeasy where Lou goes dancing at night, so clearly. The mystery of the dead girls kept me intrigued and I couldn't put the book down. I had to find out who was killing all these girls, and every guess was wrong. That's when I know I am reading a master mystery nove I LOVED this book and Louise. I wish I could have known her, and gone out dancing and drinking with her back in the 20's. The book brings the 1920's in Harlem to life, to the point that I could picture Maggie's cafe and Zodiac, the speakeasy where Lou goes dancing at night, so clearly. The mystery of the dead girls kept me intrigued and I couldn't put the book down. I had to find out who was killing all these girls, and every guess was wrong. That's when I know I am reading a master mystery novel, when I can't guess who the killer is. The tension was well done, the pacing so intense it kept me turning pages, and I love Louise Lloyd and her world so much. I can't wait to read more about Lou in the next book!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Musings and Perusings

    Spoiler free section: Since this book is by a debut author, I tried to cut a little slack, but there's not a single thing about this book that is good. A debut novel should not read like the first draft. I don't typically notice the writing style in a book and if I do, it's usually because it's not good and constantly draws attention to itself because of it. This book was full of short, choppy sentences. We got multiple sentences beginning with the same word over and over again, usually "she". The Spoiler free section: Since this book is by a debut author, I tried to cut a little slack, but there's not a single thing about this book that is good. A debut novel should not read like the first draft. I don't typically notice the writing style in a book and if I do, it's usually because it's not good and constantly draws attention to itself because of it. This book was full of short, choppy sentences. We got multiple sentences beginning with the same word over and over again, usually "she". The writing style is too simplistic. Change up the sentence structure and make it more complex. Despite taking place in 1920s Harlem, there was no sense of atmosphere, time or place. There's more to the 1920s than shimmery gowns, cigarette smoking, and drinking bootleg alcohol, but that's all we're shown here. This quote appears in the historical note: "With popular culture and today's media, it's easy to look upon the 1920s with rose-colored glasses and see the decade as nothing but raging Gatsby parties and people doing the Charleston in the street. I would love to subscribe to that notion as well, but it's just not true." You're right; it's not true, and yet, that's exactly how the author portrays it, despite what she says in the back of the book. This book did not capture the feel of the 1920s, the way people at the time looked at life and viewed things. It did not portray the underlying sense of hedonism and despair lurking beneath the glitter and glamor. After the war, we had the Lost Generation. Many young men died in the war and the young people that were left felt lost and aimless. They did not bother planning for the future and so they lived for the moment, taking pleasure where it could be found. We get the sense of none of that in this book. There's no physical description of any place. What does 1920s Harlem look like? This book won't tell you. None of the buildings or rooms are described at all and if they are, it's only the barest bones of detail, making the book's surroundings very hard to imagine. The mystery is utterly disappointing and unconvincing. In fact, for most of the book, there's really no mystery at all. It's more like this book is a family drama and a mystery broke out. The rapid change between short chapters and even shorter scenes are disorienting. We're instantly taken from one location to the next with little to no transition to soften the blow or explain where we are. It's a bit like whiplash. We don't spend enough time in any one place for any of the scenes to have any weight or matter. Detective Gilbert is made out to be distant and uncaring. It's implied that he's not investigating what happened to the girls and that he doesn't care because they're black and he's white. But he is also kind to Louise when he doesn't have to be. But you can't have it both ways. Louise thinks he is uncaring and then remarks how nice he is to her and how much she likes him. As far as the mystery itself goes, this book utterly fails at being a mystery. The three hallmarks of a good mystery are all absent here: 1) A compelling detective character (in this case, Louise) 2) The victims 3) And a compelling list of suspects each with their own motive Number one is a failure because Louise is bad at being a detective. That's hardly surprising, because she isn't one. The circumstances that lead to her getting involved in the case require a suspension of disbelief. But more than that, Louise is an utterly unlikable character. She is, in a word, pretentious. She's constantly judging everyone, deserved or not. Even her own girlfriend tells her that all she cares about is herself. Number two: The readers need to get to know each of the victims and what their lives were like before they died. We need to be made to care about them and what has happened to them. We don't get to know any of the victims in this book, aside from perhaps the final one. Number three: There really wasn't a list of suspects at all. A few characters emerged as someone who might have done it, but all of them lacked a compelling motive, including the one who turned out to be the killer. The rest of the review will contain major spoilers for the plot. Read on at your own risk. Spoilers: Another misstep of this mystery was the Virgin Mary cards. It was never explained why the victims had them. I actually suspected at one point that the killer might be Louise's father, since he is a preacher and all of the murdered girls were involved in prostitution. I thought he might have been killing them as a perverse way of "saving them". Or failing that, it could have been her father's understudy, the man Louise was once set to marry, also training to become a preacher. They each had the same motive. But alas, the real killer turned out to be far more predictable. Of course it's the cop. How very original. I predicted that before I was halfway through the book. It's not as if the book makes any attempt to throw a red herring at us and direct our attention away from Gilbert, with all the supporting characters constantly reminding Louise how they don't think he can be trusted. The conclusion is unsatisfying and predictable. Louise does something stupid with a Ouija board, tipping Gilbert off that she's on to him, which leads to her sister being murdered. I definitely didn't see that coming either. I also don't think Gilbert could have gotten away with what he did, either. One of the suspects dies of an apparent heart attack immediately after consuming food prepared by Gilbert. He later admits to Louise that he laced the tea with arsenic. I am not a medical examiner, of course, but I think arsenic would have appeared in a toxicology report during the autopsy. I don't think it's within Gilbert's authority to insist that an autopsy not be conducted and even if he did, it would look suspicious. The political diatribe was unnecessary and heavy-handed. No one likes to be lectured to. If you're going to write characters with modern opinions and attitudes, then write a modern story. There's no reason this story needs to be set in the 1920s. Absolutely none at all. It could have just as easily been written in our own time, and probably would have fit better, too. The author even admits as much, but she's fascinated by the 1920s (and who wouldn't be) so here we are.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kal ★ Reader Voracious

    I'm a simple gal, I see this on Twitter and immediately add the book to my TBR: "if you want a jazz age murder mystery starring a tiny, tired lesbian, look no further than DEAD DEAD GIRLS." And let me tell you: this debut historical mystery did not disappoint! With an amazing atmosphere, complex characters, and engaging plot, I devoured this book in two sittings *shakes fist at sleep* "Secrets were made and kept at the Zodiac. It was a place where men could dance with men, and women could I'm a simple gal, I see this on Twitter and immediately add the book to my TBR: "if you want a jazz age murder mystery starring a tiny, tired lesbian, look no further than DEAD DEAD GIRLS." And let me tell you: this debut historical mystery did not disappoint! With an amazing atmosphere, complex characters, and engaging plot, I devoured this book in two sittings *shakes fist at sleep* "Secrets were made and kept at the Zodiac. It was a place where men could dance with men, and women could dance with women." Instantly gripping with a sense of unease creeping from the narrative, I was transported to Jazz Age New York City. Let's set the scene for Dead Dead Girls with some Jazz ! I loved how the reader is introduced to Louise in the "present time" of 1926 on the dance floor of a Prohibition era club: the freedom and excitement of expressing herself dances on the page. The Zodiac is where she can be herself and dance with her partner Rosa. "On nights like tonight, everything fell into place, and 'good' wasn't even the best word to describe it. 'Magical,' maybe. The way the room vibrated with anticipation as the band struck up, and she was whirled onto the dance floor -- it always elicited the same feeling." Diminutive in stature but not in personality, Louise is a main character you can't help but root for. A survivor of kidnapping ten years prior, she lives a happy and 'simple' life as a waitress and tries to move past her notoriety. But when Black girls turn up dead, the police "ask" (aka force) Louise to help them solve the crimes because she can go where the white cops can't. This is the last thing she wants, but she feels a responsibility to her community to do what she can... and it's quickly obvious that the police haven't been doing much in their investigation. She fights for Black girls who the system seems to not care about and I like how she challenges white apathy. "Summers were time for them to get together as a community. But no one trusted anyone anymore. There was doubt seeping in through the cracks of a community that used to be so close." Expertly plotted, I love how the clues and hints all tie into the greater mystery rather than having obvious and poorly contrived red herrings. Every chapter ends with a quip that only someone recalling with 20/20 perspective would say, and that not only kept me on my toes but kept me reading. I had to know what would happen next, and I was on pins and needles trying to figure out who the killer is and who the killer will attack next. It's a fast read and one I struggled to put down. "It was strange to see how her story wasn't a story until it was. There was no mention of missing girls, no mention of her being snatched from the sidewalk blocks from her home, no mention of this utterly life-changing event, until there was a fifteen-year-old Louise looking shellshocked and dirty, accompanied by three other girls." There's a parallel spanning ten years in Louise's life: when she was abducted in the past and her trying to solve the murders in the present. How no one beyond the community seemed to care about the missing girls until Louise escape; how no one cared about the murdered girls until bodies were left out in the open. It's a critique on not only the news cycle and sensationalism of media but also how crimes against Black people often go unreported and under-investigated. Lingo and slang of the era helps to solidify the era, as sadly the trials and tribulations of Louise and other Black girls of Harlem could have been set in modern times with little difference. The pacing is a little weird towards the end of the book, and I would have liked maybe 20 more pages. I was genuinely wondering if there was going to be a resolution in this book because I was getting close to the end and it was still all rising action building toward the final confrontation... and then it's resolved in a page. I had a case of reader whiplash because I was vibing so hard with the book and then it was over in a blink; I was left feeling a little unsatisfied, which is a shame because other than that it was a stellar read. Overall, Nekesa Afia's historical mystery debut wowed me. I love being so engaged in a plot that I can't put a book down, and the mystery itself is plotted well. While the ending came a little quicker than I'd have liked, it's a testament that I wanted to keep reading. I look forward to the next installment in this series and recommend this one to lovers of historical mystery with female characters who become detectives to speak for the forgotten victims. Representation: Black main character, diverse main cast, LGBT+ characters (gay and sapphic characters) Content Warnings: attempted rape, depictions of grief, loss of a loved one, murder, racism, sexism, use of n-word, victim blaming eARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley for my honest review. This does not affect my opinions of the book nor the content of my review. Quotations are from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon final publication. Blog | Twitter | Pinterest

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mia Manansala

    I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of this debut novel about a queer Black woman in 1920s Harlem forced to assist in the investigation of a serial killer targeting Black girls in her neighborhood. This writer is definitely a talent to watch. Here's my blurb: 'Though she be but little, she is fierce.' Shakespeare might as well have been describing Louise Lloyd, the flawed yet fantastic protagonist in Afia's debut set in 1920s Harlem. I loved the world that Afia created and can't wait to f I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of this debut novel about a queer Black woman in 1920s Harlem forced to assist in the investigation of a serial killer targeting Black girls in her neighborhood. This writer is definitely a talent to watch. Here's my blurb: 'Though she be but little, she is fierce.' Shakespeare might as well have been describing Louise Lloyd, the flawed yet fantastic protagonist in Afia's debut set in 1920s Harlem. I loved the world that Afia created and can't wait to follow Lou and her friends on their next adventure. Come for the wonderfully diverse and twisty mystery, stay for the amazing 20s slang and fashion.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    I didn’t like the writing in this- it rubbed me up the wrong way. Also I didn’t really find the premise of the MC becoming an amateur detective convincing,nor some of the situations she found herself in. It’s a real shame as I’d been really looking forward to this book- there’s a real gap in the historical mystery market for any young black protagonist, and especially a female one. The book may also have been spoiled for me by reading Libba Bray’s excellent Diviner’s series set in the same time I didn’t like the writing in this- it rubbed me up the wrong way. Also I didn’t really find the premise of the MC becoming an amateur detective convincing,nor some of the situations she found herself in. It’s a real shame as I’d been really looking forward to this book- there’s a real gap in the historical mystery market for any young black protagonist, and especially a female one. The book may also have been spoiled for me by reading Libba Bray’s excellent Diviner’s series set in the same time period.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Linden

    It’s 1926, and Louise, a resident of Harlem, has just hit a police officer because she thought was hurting another girl, and because she has a temper. She should be booked for assault, but Detective Gilbert says if she will help him solve the case of girls who are being killed in the neighborhood, he will make the case disappear. I didn’t buy this premise at all--since the police were pretty disrespectful to the Harlem residents, it seemed unlikely that this white officer would ask Louise to hel It’s 1926, and Louise, a resident of Harlem, has just hit a police officer because she thought was hurting another girl, and because she has a temper. She should be booked for assault, but Detective Gilbert says if she will help him solve the case of girls who are being killed in the neighborhood, he will make the case disappear. I didn’t buy this premise at all--since the police were pretty disrespectful to the Harlem residents, it seemed unlikely that this white officer would ask Louise to help with a case. Sadly, the killer’s identity was pretty obvious, too, and the ending was unsatisfying I was looking forward to reading a mystery set during the Harlem Renaissance, but this novel was a major disappointment--two and a half stars. Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the ARC.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    The bones of this story are so good. A lesbian POC solving crime in 1926 Harlem. So much catnip in one sentence. I wanted another enjoyable historical murder series to look forward to reading a new volume every year. However, the construction of the book needs a rewrite. The flow of chapters is horrible. At the beginning of every chapter, I don't know where we are or how we got there. It reminded me of reading short stories. I honestly want Nekesa Afia to work on it before it gets published. The The bones of this story are so good. A lesbian POC solving crime in 1926 Harlem. So much catnip in one sentence. I wanted another enjoyable historical murder series to look forward to reading a new volume every year. However, the construction of the book needs a rewrite. The flow of chapters is horrible. At the beginning of every chapter, I don't know where we are or how we got there. It reminded me of reading short stories. I honestly want Nekesa Afia to work on it before it gets published. The lost potential of this book hurts. This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided through Netgalley for an honest review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    charlotte,

    Rep: Black lesbian mc, Latina lesbian li, Latino gay side character, Black side characters CWs: rape threats, racial slurs, sexual harassment, attempted rape, femicide i think the problem i had was mainly to do with the writing. for all that the book is set in 1926, it really doesn't feel it. about the only thing that suggests it is, is the slang. and (more personally) i'm begging that you stop trying to end every section with short snappy sentences. in fact, i'm begging that everything about this Rep: Black lesbian mc, Latina lesbian li, Latino gay side character, Black side characters CWs: rape threats, racial slurs, sexual harassment, attempted rape, femicide i think the problem i had was mainly to do with the writing. for all that the book is set in 1926, it really doesn't feel it. about the only thing that suggests it is, is the slang. and (more personally) i'm begging that you stop trying to end every section with short snappy sentences. in fact, i'm begging that everything about this book is longer (sentences, scenes and chapters), there's just no build up to anything that happens (case in point: someone dies in front of louise and there's nothing that suggests he's dying until a line that's basically "he's dead". louise doesn't even worry or call for help until then!!). and the foreshadowing was so obvious i guessed the killer from the moment louise first asked someone what she thought of them!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brenda Feinen

    Great debut - can't wait for the next one! Afia states in the Acknowledgements this story could have taken place in present day as not much has changed for minorities. She chose the 1920s to connect with her history - Afia does an amazing job bringing Prohibition and the Roaring 20s to life. At the age of 16, Louise is abducted from a sidewalk, simply walking home. When she wakes, Louise finds herself chained, along with several other young Black girls. With severe determination, Louise not only Great debut - can't wait for the next one! Afia states in the Acknowledgements this story could have taken place in present day as not much has changed for minorities. She chose the 1920s to connect with her history - Afia does an amazing job bringing Prohibition and the Roaring 20s to life. At the age of 16, Louise is abducted from a sidewalk, simply walking home. When she wakes, Louise finds herself chained, along with several other young Black girls. With severe determination, Louise not only frees herself, but also fellow captives. She becomes known as the Harlem Hero. Ten years later, someone is abducting vulnerable young Black girls, killing them and leaving them displayed. In exchange for forgiveness of an altercation, Louise agrees to help lead Detective Gilbert solve the case. Louise interviews family members, friends of the killed girls, desperate to save those left. Gritty noir crime novel featuring a strong Black woman. The story pulled me in; I loved Louise and her family. Highly recommend.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Canaves

    If you’re about to skip over this one because you don’t read, or aren’t in the mood, for cozy mysteries (which the cover may make you think it is), come back this is not a cozy! Set during the Harlem Renaissance, Louise Lloyd has never been able to avoid the spotlight after escaping a kidnapper as a teenager, and setting free the other girls in the process. The press has remembered her, as has the Harlem community. When she’s arrested for assaulting an officer, this comes in handy for the police If you’re about to skip over this one because you don’t read, or aren’t in the mood, for cozy mysteries (which the cover may make you think it is), come back this is not a cozy! Set during the Harlem Renaissance, Louise Lloyd has never been able to avoid the spotlight after escaping a kidnapper as a teenager, and setting free the other girls in the process. The press has remembered her, as has the Harlem community. When she’s arrested for assaulting an officer, this comes in handy for the police who recognize her and want to use her. There’s a serial killer, killing young Black girls, and the detective in charge thinks a young Black woman like Louise will make it easier to get people to help with the investigation, rather than white cops asking questions. She doesn’t want to but is backed into a corner, so she goes out asking questions, putting herself in danger… Louise is a great character who, after being kidnapped as a teen, being forced to raise her younger siblings, and thrown out by her father, wears no rose colored glasses when viewing the world. What she does love is dancing with her girlfriend and friend until the morning hours at a speakeasy, with zero intention of marrying or doing any of the things expected of women. If you’re looking for a historical mystery, set during the exciting Harlem Renaissance, with a bit of a noir feeling to it, pick up this book. I’m excited that it’s a series starter and look forward to more of Louise and the time period. (TW attempted rape/ kidnapping/ homophobia/ racism) --from Book Riot's Unusual Suspects newsletter: https://link.bookriot.com/view/56a820...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susie Dumond

    As a teenager, Louise Lloyd made headlines for escaping her kidnapper--and freeing his other victims on the way. Now, in 1926, she works at a Maggie's Café by day and at Harlem's coolest speakeasy by night. When dead girls from the club start turning up, Louise can't trust the police to find the murderer. Instead, she takes matters into her own hands. I really, really enjoyed this start to the Harlem Renaissance Mystery series! The setting is so engaging, and Louise Lloyd is the perfect combinati As a teenager, Louise Lloyd made headlines for escaping her kidnapper--and freeing his other victims on the way. Now, in 1926, she works at a Maggie's Café by day and at Harlem's coolest speakeasy by night. When dead girls from the club start turning up, Louise can't trust the police to find the murderer. Instead, she takes matters into her own hands. I really, really enjoyed this start to the Harlem Renaissance Mystery series! The setting is so engaging, and Louise Lloyd is the perfect combination of smart, fun, and irreverent. I really wanted to see more of her relationship with Rosa Maria, but hopefully I'll get to read more about it in the next installment! Thanks to Berkley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    Set during the Harlem Renaissance this story follows Louise who is a waitress enjoying life as much as she can. She was kidnapped as a young girl but managed to escape and free not only herself but others girls earning herself the nickname of Harlem's Hero. A little over a decade later she still is battling some unresolved trauma which she drowns under alcohol and dancing. Her life gets shaken up again when she stumbles across a dead body outside of her place of employment. After a drunken alter Set during the Harlem Renaissance this story follows Louise who is a waitress enjoying life as much as she can. She was kidnapped as a young girl but managed to escape and free not only herself but others girls earning herself the nickname of Harlem's Hero. A little over a decade later she still is battling some unresolved trauma which she drowns under alcohol and dancing. Her life gets shaken up again when she stumbles across a dead body outside of her place of employment. After a drunken altercation with the police she ends up getting recruited as expendable bait to help track down the serial killer terrorizing the Harlem streets. This book took a little bit longer to find it's stride then anticipated. Early on the chapters are very choppy and tend to end in what I assume is an ode to radio mystery shows from that time period. They're these foreshadow heavy cliffhangers meant to build suspense. Which ended up foreshadowing the killer earlier in the story than necessary. Once those were dropped and the author let the suspense build naturally the story flowed much better. I could tell the author had fun with this 1920s setting and wanted to play up the glitz and glamour as much as she could while also keeping it clear that it wasn't all sunshine and roses for Black women. The writing gets stronger towards the end as the story finds it's stride. This series has potential to expand beyond the illegal booze and worst kept secret speakeasies into something magical. 3.5/5 stars I received an arc from Berkley in exchange for an honest review. A little more in depth here https://womenofcolorreadtoo.blogspot....

  19. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Dagenhart

    An intriguing concept and highly anticipated debut that, for me, was a decent read, but not a phenomenal one. The pacing and suspense were quite good, but many of the plot developments were a bit too convenient for me to feel fully convinced. There is a level of emotional depth here, but I think there is a lot more opportunity to go deeper and subtler, to show rather than to tell (I know, I know...). Some of the dialogue and Louise's investigative threads felt a bit punctuated, although, to be fa An intriguing concept and highly anticipated debut that, for me, was a decent read, but not a phenomenal one. The pacing and suspense were quite good, but many of the plot developments were a bit too convenient for me to feel fully convinced. There is a level of emotional depth here, but I think there is a lot more opportunity to go deeper and subtler, to show rather than to tell (I know, I know...). Some of the dialogue and Louise's investigative threads felt a bit punctuated, although, to be fair, if that's the tradeoff I have to make to get punchy writing with solid pacing, I'll take it. I appreciated the setting and history that were brought in, even if the world sometimes felt a bit of a blend between the Harlem of the 1920's and modern America. Although this novel gets a mixed reaction from me, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Nekesa Afia after this first novel. Note: I was provided a free advance reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Everett

    Nekesa Afia is a dancer. I know this because I hear it in her writing. Dead Dead Girls is a mystery, but it is also a dance. Afia’s writing is syncopation; short beats, swift turns and quick leaps from page to page, hands clasping, twisting, and separating again. There is a soft rhythm beneath the plot that keeps you attuned to all the words she doesn’t use, to the beat of the ones she does select. That she brings her talents to a mystery about an amateur sleuth in 1920’s Harlem – a Black girl n Nekesa Afia is a dancer. I know this because I hear it in her writing. Dead Dead Girls is a mystery, but it is also a dance. Afia’s writing is syncopation; short beats, swift turns and quick leaps from page to page, hands clasping, twisting, and separating again. There is a soft rhythm beneath the plot that keeps you attuned to all the words she doesn’t use, to the beat of the ones she does select. That she brings her talents to a mystery about an amateur sleuth in 1920’s Harlem – a Black girl named Lou who loves dancing, drinking, and other women – makes this debut all the more exciting. Lou is a heroine for the ages and much as I wanted to shake some sense in her, I wanted her to stay forever herself, dancing on the edge and cracking wise. Afia’s prose is spare, elegant, and musical and I will forever read anything she writes with the hunger of someone haunted by a tune.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Cowley

    An excellent adult (definitely not YA or cozy) mystery novel that takes us along with a black woman in 1920s Harlem who must help solve the mystery of all the teenage black girls who are being killed. Lots of twists and turns with a really immersive setting (I loved the fashion, the dancing, the music, and the illegal clubs of the Harlem Renaissance). While it's not a romance novel and their relationship is already established, I liked the relationship arc between Louise and Rosa Maria. I was luc An excellent adult (definitely not YA or cozy) mystery novel that takes us along with a black woman in 1920s Harlem who must help solve the mystery of all the teenage black girls who are being killed. Lots of twists and turns with a really immersive setting (I loved the fashion, the dancing, the music, and the illegal clubs of the Harlem Renaissance). While it's not a romance novel and their relationship is already established, I liked the relationship arc between Louise and Rosa Maria. I was lucky enough to receive a free advanced copy of this book from Netgalley.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ieisha

    Ugh. At 40% in, I didn't think I'd like it. At 63% I knew I wouldn't enjoy it, but I pushed through and skimmed the last quarter of the book. Did. Not. Like. The plot was predictable and I guessed it early on, but I could not get with the writing style. It didn't flow. The sentences were choppy and there wasn't enough transition to explain thoughts and scenes. I trudged through because it was my book club pick and I wanted to participate in the discussion. Ugh. At 40% in, I didn't think I'd like it. At 63% I knew I wouldn't enjoy it, but I pushed through and skimmed the last quarter of the book. Did. Not. Like. The plot was predictable and I guessed it early on, but I could not get with the writing style. It didn't flow. The sentences were choppy and there wasn't enough transition to explain thoughts and scenes. I trudged through because it was my book club pick and I wanted to participate in the discussion.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Welp, now I'm gonna need to read every mystery Nekesa Afia writes, because I cannot get enough of Louise Lloyd. Dead Dead Girls is a stellar debut 1920s jazz-age murder mystery starring a tiny Black lesbian ex-showgirl solving crimes, and if that's not a string of words that makes you want to pick up a book immediately, then unfollow me at once because we cannot be friends. Louise is a standout character not just because of her scrappy crime-solving skills, but because of her beautiful heart, the Welp, now I'm gonna need to read every mystery Nekesa Afia writes, because I cannot get enough of Louise Lloyd. Dead Dead Girls is a stellar debut 1920s jazz-age murder mystery starring a tiny Black lesbian ex-showgirl solving crimes, and if that's not a string of words that makes you want to pick up a book immediately, then unfollow me at once because we cannot be friends. Louise is a standout character not just because of her scrappy crime-solving skills, but because of her beautiful heart, the warmth she shows both her found family and her biological one, and—for me maybe most of all—her love for dancing and music and life. This book made me want to quit my day job and go out and take dance lessons. There's a real joy and transcendence to the scenes of Lou at the Zodiac dancing until the wee hours of the morning, and I can't say enough how much I loved them. This is a smart, page-turning, at-times-gutting mystery you won't want to put down. PS: Rafael is my boy, and the author had better not let anything bad happen to him in any further installments in this series, because I love him. Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC of this great debut!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shirleynature

    “Harlem’s Hero” may be reluctant to identify herself as such; however, Louise Lovie Lloyd truly is the courageous Black Sapphic heroine & amateur sleuth in this engaging 1920s Harlem renaissance centered mystery. And working with the police to catch a serial killer brought grit, danger, and several twists to the story! Thanks to Nekesa Afia, Berkley Books, and NetGalley for sharing the e-galley for review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brend

    I mean, it wasn't BAD, but it sure was underwhelming I mean, it wasn't BAD, but it sure was underwhelming

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michelle | musingsbymichelle

    I love the Harlem Renaissance and reading anything about it-- both fiction and non-fiction! In line with the time period, this mystery reads like a classic detective noir with a little Gatsby. The characters aren't perfect and there's a lot of shady things going on. You have a little bit of anti-hero-ness going on with several characters as well. Additionally, you have a main character who is independent and queer. The book opens with a young Louise, escaping from being abducted and saving the o I love the Harlem Renaissance and reading anything about it-- both fiction and non-fiction! In line with the time period, this mystery reads like a classic detective noir with a little Gatsby. The characters aren't perfect and there's a lot of shady things going on. You have a little bit of anti-hero-ness going on with several characters as well. Additionally, you have a main character who is independent and queer. The book opens with a young Louise, escaping from being abducted and saving the other girls abducted with her. This gives her the label of "Harlem's Hero"-- a past she has tried to shed and this label. However, her life of partying in speakeasies and dancing the night away is disrupted when young Black girls begin showing up dead near the place she works and she is recruited to help solve the cases to avoid jail time. It's a puzzling mystery to solve that has her recalling her past, working with enemies, and putting those she loves at risk. It gets slow at parts and wasn't too excited or surprised by the ending, but I am definitely interested in seeing how this series continues. A final note, that this cover is gorgeous! I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this book from Netgalley and Berkley Books. This has not impacted my rating and this review is voluntary.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bon

    Nothing special, to my dismay. A lot of opportunities with this cast of characters and setting, but the mystery itself disappointed. My least favorite is the kind where you know who did it and it comes down to proving it. I also found it ridiculous that the protagonist was....crimesplaining? to cops at a murder scene, like Criminal Minds profiling. Because she once escaped a killer. Mmhmm. This was a way to pass some time, that's really it.... Nothing special, to my dismay. A lot of opportunities with this cast of characters and setting, but the mystery itself disappointed. My least favorite is the kind where you know who did it and it comes down to proving it. I also found it ridiculous that the protagonist was....crimesplaining? to cops at a murder scene, like Criminal Minds profiling. Because she once escaped a killer. Mmhmm. This was a way to pass some time, that's really it....

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sondra Rose Marie

    I liked Dead Dead Girls, but I didn't love it. Let's start with what worked: It was *awesome* to read a story about a Black queer woman solving crime in 1920s New York City. That type of representation is almost non existant, so coming across it here (as a reader who is a Black queer woman) was so validating. I love how vibrant Harlem feels while reading: it's easy to paint a picture of each speakeasy, café, and park. I also loved that this book didn't pretend that racism didn't exist, but weave I liked Dead Dead Girls, but I didn't love it. Let's start with what worked: It was *awesome* to read a story about a Black queer woman solving crime in 1920s New York City. That type of representation is almost non existant, so coming across it here (as a reader who is a Black queer woman) was so validating. I love how vibrant Harlem feels while reading: it's easy to paint a picture of each speakeasy, café, and park. I also loved that this book didn't pretend that racism didn't exist, but weaved a realistic take on it into the story. It felt so much more believable because of that. Okay, so now for what didn't feel quite right for me: the mystery. To be fair, I love true crime and I read thrillers, but I don't read a TON of mysteries. However, this mystery here didn't feel quite aligned to me: I never fully understood the killer's signature, his reason for killing didn't get as deeply explored as I wished, and the pacing felt a little off to me. There were things Louise didn't pick up on that were obvious signs and other things she found fishy for no reason. I like when I can solve the crime with the main character and here, I felt like I wasn't given a chance to: I had to be content to just sit on my hands and watch Louise solve the mystery. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this book!

  29. 4 out of 5

    andi

    3.5 stars

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jammin Jenny

    I really enjoyed this historical fiction cozy mystery set in Harlem NY in the 1920s. The main character is Louise Lloyd, a young black woman who at 15 had been kidnapped off the street, and beyond all odds, had escaped her assailant and helped three other teenage black girls escape with her. When we next see her, she is in her early 20s living in a boarding house for Wayward Girls, and is involved with another of the girls Rosa Maria. Young girls are being killed and left outside the cafe Louise I really enjoyed this historical fiction cozy mystery set in Harlem NY in the 1920s. The main character is Louise Lloyd, a young black woman who at 15 had been kidnapped off the street, and beyond all odds, had escaped her assailant and helped three other teenage black girls escape with her. When we next see her, she is in her early 20s living in a boarding house for Wayward Girls, and is involved with another of the girls Rosa Maria. Young girls are being killed and left outside the cafe Louise works at, and the officer in charge asks Louise to help. I loved the ending and finding out who the killer was. I received an e-ARC of this book by the author and publishing via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion regarding the book.

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