Cover Image: Dead Dead Girls

Dead Dead Girls

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Member Reviews

I LOVED this book. I was hooked from the jump; the worldbuilding, the writing, the pacing. I'd follow Louise (aka Lovie) anywhere. I can't wait for Nekesa Afia's next book.
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Thank you Netgalley and the  publisher for this advanced reading copy. This story is very interesting and great for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I love a good mystery.
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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.
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I had very high expectations for this book, based on the summary and the reviews, which is maybe why I was so disappointed.  I found the writing to be very choppy, there were a few continuity errors, and it felt very much like the author was just "telling" me things instead of "showing" me.  I love the idea of a smart queer Black woman solving murder mysteries in 1920's Harlem, but this just didn't carry through for me.  I feel like it needs another hard edit or two before it is released to help smooth over the chapter transitions and add a little more depth to the character interactions.
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Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia is a well-paced, historical mystery novel set in Harlem during the 1920s prohibition era. This story is more than just about catching the mysterious Girl Killer that is murdering young black women, and about taking another look at the roaring 1920’s, a decade that is often glamourized and romanticized. The story follows, Louisa, a mid-twenties black lesbian, who stands up for what is right, does not cower in the face of prejudice or racism, and strives to create a place where black girls and woman can live freely and love freely. The historical setting of this book creates a nice atmosphere to the story. However, I do wish the book had more of a surprising ending and was not as rushed, but I then again, this story is not so much about the Girl Killer as it about illuminating what it meant to be a young black woman in the 1920s.
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Written with a flow that feels almost like the dancing Louise and Rosa Maria love partake in. 

It’s a lovely debut that makes you want to keep reading until all your suspicions are confirmed. 

Something I found a little difficult were Detective Martin as a trustworthy alliance after he was so racist and cruel in the beginning.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for this eARC! 
Overall rating: 3.5 but I prefer to round up if I have to give a rating
There was a lot to enjoy in this book even though it fell a bit flat for me.. Dead Dead Girls is set during the Harlem Renaissance and Prohibition Era with a queer Black protagonist who is strong-willed, hard-headed, and can dance with the best of them working with white police to stop a serial killer. Mystery is a genre that I’m unfortunately very picky with and don’t often read much of, but this seemed less twisty “whodunnit” because the “Girl Killer” is revealed early on and what’s left is to prove how. 

I thought there was a lot of promise in this book but was unfortunately jolted out of the story because the pacing and storytelling seemed choppy. I would often be wondering why we were suddenly in a different scene. In addition, it seemed as if there were inconsistencies in how some characters were described, but that might just me being nit picky. 

I think this book will have readers who really enjoy it despite my personal issues because Harlem Renaissance mystery is just such a great premise and Afia created such a strong female protagonist! 
Instagram post to be uploaded by pub date on
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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.
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Louise Lloyd lives in 1920s Harlem, works at a diner during the day, then dances and drinks the night away in speakeasies with her girlfriend Rosa Maria. When three young Black women who work at the speakeasy hidden under the diner where Louise works are murdered, and the police investigation seems half-hearted at best, the lead detective recruits Louise to help gather information from places he can’t easily have access to.

First of all, I loved the historical recreation. The characters speak the lingo of the time in a way that sets the action in a definite period, but the narrator’s voice is modern so it doesn’t become too heavy-handed. It is fascinating to explore the different spaces that Louise navigates: the cheap or more upscale speakeasies, the rooming house where she and Rosa Maria live, the strict household where she grew up, and the police station. (I would love to say that the racism and misogynoir that is directed at Louise is also part of the period detail, but sadly I only have to look at the world today to know that they are still prevalent.) Louise deftly navigates the different worlds, a little lost in her first time as amateur detective, but determined to find justice for the dead young women and stop the killer.

Which brings me to Louise, who is a wonderful protagonist. She is the survivor of a kidnapping that occurred when she was a teen, while saving herself she also saved several other victims. The middle daughter of a strict religious father, she is fiercely independent and has a bit of an anger management issue, which her friends see but she herself refuses to acknowledge. She is headstrong and outspoken, which for a young unmarried (not to mention Queer) Black woman at the time was not a safe combination. She keeps getting into scrapes and fighting her way out, and I couldn’t help but keep turning the pages to see what she would do next.

The only less than perfect element of this novel was the mystery itself. While Louise’s investigation is compelling, there are not a lot of twists, and Louise guesses the identity of the murderer fairly early on and from that point the mystery becomes “how will she prove it” rather than “whodunnit”. While the final confrontation is nerve-wracking, there weren’t a lot of twists to get there. I would still read any further adventures of Louise as a detective, especially to see her grow as a character and plunge again in the period setting, but I would hope for a few more red herrings.
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This book was so immersive— from the setting, to the wardrobe, to the way the characters spoke, that I immediately felt transported to the prohibition-era jazz age. The author kept the pacing and the plot tight, and the main character was such a firecracker that it’s impossible not to love this book. I can’t wait for the next one!
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Dead Dead Girls is the start of a promising and refreshing new historical mystery series. Set in 1920s Harlem, readers get to follow Louise, a complicated and compelling heroine, as she becomes entangled in a series of murders despite her best efforts to stay under the radar. Definitely not a cozy, this book has a menacing undertone and doesn't hesitate to shine a light on the ugliness that people are capable of. I look forward to seeing Louise develop as a character, and hearing more about her close-knit group of friends. Solid characters, an interesting setting, and plenty of intrigue.
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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
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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.
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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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This book was an absolute joy. Louise is a fantastic heroine: tiny but fearless, complex but flawed, and I was immediately drawn into her world. The story may be set a hundred years ago, but the characters in this novel are wonderfully relevant for twenty-first century readers. The writing is fast paced and stylish, and the author beautifully evokes the atmosphere of prohibition era Harlem - from page one I could visualise this book as if it were a film. The plot twists and turns, throwing out wonderful red herrings along the way, and the ending left me speechless. Add to this the fact the heroine is black and queer, and this is an astonishing debut from a major new mystery voice.
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This was such a good book! I loved Louise and think this is a great debut. The pacing was well done and the mystery elements were seamless. I’m looking forward to the rest of this series. Nekesa Afia is one to watch.
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CW: murder, attempted rape, kidnapping, racism, sexual harassment 

3.5/5 stars

"dead dead girls" is a solid debut, but i have mixed feelings about this novel. while i did enjoy most parts, the middle dragged a bit and i hated the way it ended. it was so rushed and quick, and not much was explained.

the writing is wonderful and the author does a great job making us understand the character's emotions and what drives her. i liked how unapologetically herself louise was and how fleshed out her personality was. 

the side characters were also interesting. i loved rosa and i loved her relationship with louise. they were so soft together. the twins were so cute as well and i really liked the trio. 

the mystery was kinda all over the place. louise missed clues that were pretty obvious and got stuck on stuff that didn't really matter that much. the ending left a lot of questions unanswered and in my opinion, it ended way too abruptly. we didn't get to know why the killer did what he did besides a few sentences that didn't offer much. 

overall, it is a good novel, it just needed a bit of editing. i'll definitely pick up the next books in the series!

thank you to netgalley for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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DNF. I really liked the premise but the writing did not work for me at all. It wouldn't be fair to the book if I finished reading and gave it a low rating.
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I love historical mystery books!  Once I read the description on this book I knew I had to get my hands on it.  To also find out that it is a series I am over the top excited.  I thought the characters were well developed and the story line was clever.  Louise is a great lead and I can't wait to see what else she does!
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A great historical mystery with wonderful representation of a queer Black girl in 1920s Harlem. It's more than just mystery or history and ties together issues of race and sexuality, family and found family, and the joy of dancing.
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