Cropped version of the book cover for Dead Dead Girls

Dead Dead Girls

Who is this book for: mystery readers looking for a historic setting, lovers of the Jazz Age and the Harlem Renaissance

Louise Lloyd has a simple life – and she likes it that way. Living in 1920s Harlem, she spends her days working at Maggie’s Café and her nights dancing with her friends at the local speakeasy, the Zodiac. Only her best friend and girlfriend know about her past. When Louise was a child, her face appeared in every newspaper after she attacked her kidnapper and fled the scene with other girls. She’s in no mood to step back into the spotlight. But when Black girls like her start disappearing in Harlem, she gets roped into helping solve the case. As the Girl Killer ramps up his spree, Louise feels the pressure to find the murderer before he potentially takes someone she loves.

Nekesa Afia writes a powerful tale about the prejudices and victimization Black people faced in the 1920s, with some eerie parallels to today. Louise is a survivor, dealing with past trauma, grief and a world that doesn’t understand her race and sexuality. Through it all, she perseveres for her community and to prevent the horror that happened to her from happening to others. Harlem is full of life in Dead Dead Girls, and it’s lovely to see Louise’s social calendar full of joy and friendship. And some illegal trips to the speakeasy, of course. Though some of the darker moments can be quite hard to read, watching Louise solve the case with her tenacity and hot temper is a delight.

A version of this review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness.