The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss
The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss is the third in the series of mysteries featuring an accidental hipster geek detective, after The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss and The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss, all by Max Wirestone. I liked it best, because the heroine and the series both seemed to have calmed down a little, focusing on figuring out what’s gone wrong instead of dropping trends to a distracting degree.
Dahlia has been enlisted as an industrial spy, only the industry is video games. There’s a local development company, and their remote owner wants to know why their new game is behind schedule. Dahlia becomes their receptionist with the goal of snagging a copy of the code.
Everyone at the company is exhausted, and the previous receptionist is missing. Someone is posting dirty laundry about the company on the internet. Then Dahlia finds a dead body in the supply closet. Toss in an unexpected pregnancy, a visit from an internet gaming journalist digging for dirt, and the boss’ drug collection, and you have quite the chaos. Only it’s chaos a lot of people will find understandable, given how today’s digital industries operate.
Do not read this book if you have no tolerance for narrators going on about how they’re feeling, with wisecracks about what they’re seeing. But if you enjoy smart-aleck commentary of that kind — in the right mood, I do — it’s quite enjoyable to see Dahlia try to make sense of a stressed software development company. There are well-meaning programmers pushed to their limit, a woman supposedly in charge who’s undercut by the impossible demands of her new bosses, a charming but devious figurehead, and the guy from the main office whom no one trusts. This is an environment that many readers will be able to relate to, which made the hijinks more entertaining.
The revelations are surprising, unguessable, yet hang together coherently. There are plenty of pop culture references, but the emphasis here, unlike in earlier volumes, is more on character-driven comedy and twists, which I appreciated. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)