Review: DEAD GIRL SING by Tony Cavanaugh

DeadGirlSingDEAD GIRL SING is the second instalment of Tony Cavanaugh’s Queensland based series starring ex-cop-turned-vigilante Darian Richards. He is once again dragged reluctantly from his self-imposed retirement; this time because a young woman whose life he saved in the last book rings him out of the blue and says something along the lines of “only you can help..there are so many bodies” and then promptly vanishes into thin air. Darian contacts local a policewoman he knows in Noosa and asks her to follow it up, which she does by asking a Gold Coast based colleague to check out the location Darian has given. When this policeman also disappears Darian decides he must get more actively involved, whereupon he discovers the bodies of two dead girls in a shallow pool of water in the Gold Coast hinterland, bests the local plods with his super-human intelligence and starts his hunt for the missing girl.

I felt this novel wasn’t so much asking me to suspend my disbelief as demanding I buy it a one-way ticket to Bhutan. There just didn’t seem to be a single realistic element to the novel and that’s a hard sell, especially when a book takes itself as seriously as this one appears to. Darian Richards pontificates lengthily about his superior intellect, detecting skills and ability to apply justice which is topped off with a whole load of self-aggrandizing claptrap from the killer’s point of view and there’s no hint of the tongue in cheek humour I need to make the ‘impossibly brilliant hero’ trope even vaguely interesting to me.

It’s not spoiling anything to reveal that the plot of this novel revolves around human trafficking. Cavanaugh’s ‘take’ on the subject is to make the villain a woman which could have been an interesting twist but the character is completely over the top and I did not find her voice very credible. Eventually we learn the reasons behind Starlight’s behaviour but I didn’t really buy into all that either; it felt more like an awful series of violent vignettes strung together for shock value than an actual person’s story.

I think DEAD GIRL SING belongs more in the old-fashioned Western category – a good (if not always legally sound) guy doing battle with a bad guy (or girl) – than it does in crime fiction. There’s precious little mystery to be had as we learn who the killer is and why the crimes are being committed long before the end and the book focuses instead on the interplay between anti hero and villain. Any vestiges of suspense that might have remained are wiped away by the presence of Isosceles. He’s the mega genius geek that Darian has on permanent speed dial who can hack into anything he pleases at the touch of a button. There really is no tension to be had when the protagonist of a crime story can get out of any jam or find out whatever he needs to know so effortlessly.

Ultimately I suppose this is just not my kind of thing. I found Darian and Starlight to have equally inflated egos and neither they nor their battle of wits engaged me at all. The book doesn’t spend any serious time letting us get to know the victims – apart from via the gruesome violence they suffer – which further disconnected me from goings on. My overriding response to it was boredom.

As always, other opinions are available and here are a couple you might like to check out for balance Bite the Book and Aust Crime Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia [2013]
ISBN/ASIN: 9780733627880
Length: 325 pages
Format: paperback
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2 thoughts on “Review: DEAD GIRL SING by Tony Cavanaugh

  1. Bernadette – Honestly, this is not my kind of story either. At all. My suspense of disbelief and I are very close, and we just hate to be parted unless the story and/or characters are very, very, appealing. Your review is terrific, so thanks for that. But I think this one goes in my ‘no, thanks’ pile.


  2. I’m with you on this one, Bernadette. I read Dead Girl Sing to review for Radio National and while I thought the setting was strong, I found Starlight’s first-person narrative totally unconvincing – she spoke about women like men do. I also thought it a major tactical error to disclose the denouement of the previous novel in the first few chapters of this one – a major disincentive for reading Promise.


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