The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone


‘Dahlia’ is a YA mystery story about the self proclaimed private investigator Dahlia Moss. She begins her story surrounded by a cast of odd characters including her party hosting, fancy dress loving room mate and a MMORPG (imagine World of Warcraft on steroids) player that has a mystery for Dahlia to solve. A very valuable sword has been stolen, digitally of course and it’s down to Dahlia to find out what happened to it.

The main sell of this story is the complete geek fan service it provides. It has hardcore references to Pokemon, Dr Who and loads of other nerdy goodies. Most of them I ‘got’ but of course I missed a lot, different people will get different experiences with this book.

Dahlia herself was an enjoyable character to read about most of the time, she was aware of the female stereotypes that surround fandoms. She talks several times about avoiding becoming a manic pixie dream girl. She also talks about the commonplace of sexualising women through video games, even men playing as female characters online or women playing as men to be taken seriously.

Of course no one can seem to write young women honestly. I am referring to a scene very late in the book where she talks about a girl who ‘stole’ her ex and called her a whore. I’m not sure how many times I have to point out how of character it is for modern women to speak like that, especially given Dahlia points out sexist behaviour earlier in the book.

Plot wise I felt lost a lot of the time. I never quite got invested in the characters enough to care what happened to them or if the mystery was solved at the end. Charice (the crazy room mate) is a highlight of the book, adding a much needed direction to the plot.

The end of the book was no doubt my favourite part. Lots of sub plots come together, there is loads of drama and tension. Of course there is plenty of comedy along the way too, including an incident with a human tree.

Overall I give this book a 2/5 stars. This may seem a low score but one star is taken off for the careless use of ‘whore’ and other ‘slips of the tongue’ like that. If you’re into nerdy things and mystery books it is definitely worth checking out. Perfect for fans of The Guild and Veronica Mars.

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