Thursday, November 17, 2016


THE DEAD DON'T BOOGIE by Douglas Skelton

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

A missing teenage girl should be an easy job for Dominic Queste – after all, finding lost souls is what he does best. But sometimes it’s better if those souls stay lost. Jenny Deavers is trouble, especially for an ex-cokehead like Queste. Some truly nasty characters are very keen indeed to get to Jenny, and will stop at nothing... including murder. As the bodies pile up, Queste has to use all his street smarts both to protect Jenny and to find out just who wants her dead. 

There's a lovely mix of darkness and light in the first instalment of Douglas Skelton's new series, which tips a fedora towards the classic California noir of Chandler, Macdonald et al, while still wearing a kilt. Full of wisecracking dialogue and moments that'll make you grin despite the violence and ratcheting tension, THE DEAD DON'T BOOGIE is a one-sitting kind of read that pulls you along into the chaotic world of ex-cokehead Dominic Queste, finder of lost souls.

Like some of those classic California noirs, THE DEAD DON'T BOOGIE is very stylistic in prose, dialogue, and events, which at first can seem a little affected rather than authentic. But once I settled into the rhythm of the tale I really loved it, and devoured the whole thing in a few short hours.

Skelton has a wry eye as a writer, and a skilful touch for blending thrills with sharp humour, as well as creating starkly memorable characters. Queste himself is an unusual but compelling hero, an ex-druggie who scrapes together a living as a private eye. His best friends are ex-enforcers with a passion for culinary arts, and he often finds himself offside with those on both sides of the law.

When Queste tracks down a missing teenager, that should've been the end of his assignment, but instead he's dumped into a Pandora's Box of violence and betrayals. Getting to ride shotgun with Queste is a lot of fun, as hurtles around from the coastal village of Saltcoats to the dingy backstreets of Glasgow, uncovering (and creating) mayhem. Violence abounds, but Skelton peppers in the laughs. I got the sense that THE DEAD DON'T BOOGIE would make a fantastic screen tale. I think readers who love films like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels or Layer Cake would love this read.

Some of the incidents in the book veer to the ridiculous at times, but it's delivered with such a sense of fun, and with an adroit touch, that that's never really a problem. Everything fits and is believable (if eye-popping and gasp-inducing) within the world of Dominic Queste that Skelton has crafted. The author keeps us readers on our toes with the unusual characters and surprising twists, and I raced to the end of the book with a grin on my face, firmly looking forward to meeting Mr Queste again.

Highly recommended.

Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features for leading publications in several countries. He has interviewed more than 160 crime writers, discussed crime writing at arts and literary festivals in Europe and Australasia and on national radio, and is a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards and the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can follow him on Twitter: @craigsisterson

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