Peepshow by Leigh Redhead – review

Simone Kirsch always wanted to join the police force. She’s smart, fit and wants to do good. But she has a problem. She has worked as a stripper for the last three years and the service won’t let her in. She enrolls in an investigator course at a security college and tops her class. It even looks like she might have some surveillance work coming up. It’s all going to plan. But then her best friend Chloe-a fellow stripper who works at Melbourne’s notorious The Red Room-is kidnapped after its owner is murdered and Simone has two weeks to find the culprit and save Chloe’s life.

Peepshow is the first release from new crime press The Outfit. It is an Australian release from a couple of years ago that is making its first appearance in the U.S. There is a lot of interesting crime fiction being written and published in Australia right now that is largely unknown to US and UK readers due to the shipping cost. It’s not unheard of to spent $40 or more on a title that you don’t know much about. So it’s good to see publishers like The Outfit begin to bring some of those books and authors to new readers.

A lot of what can be said about Bloodstorm can also be said about Peepshow. It is a good, solid and enjoyable PI novel with a lot of recognizable tropes and readers will quickly fall into it’s rhythms. Really the ultimate compliment that I can pay to Peepshow is that once I started reading I just had to keep going.

There are a few things that set Peepshow apart of the crowd. Simone is brand new at the PI game, literally she has only had her license for a few weeks. So she bumbles and fumbles and makes mistakes that endear her to the reader. The Australian locale is a plus as well as all of the various bits of dialect and slang that are peppered throughout.

Then there is her day job which I’m pretty sure is unusual for a PI. At the heart of her day job is a very fundamental question. Which Simone Kirsch is the real Simone Kirsch? The one she is, stripper with aspirations, or the one that she wants to be, a PI at a mentor’s agency. I think this struggle of identity is at the heart of the the book and the character. We are clearly reading about a woman who is in transition. It will be interesting to see the change occur.

Here’s the other part of the equation. There is clearly a relationship between her two jobs in Peepshow. Her knowledge of one job allows her to be more effective at performing the other. Being a dancer gives her a firm footing in the underground which allows her to investigate it that much easier. My questions for the later books in the series and for the further development of the character are, how do you maintain the relationship between the two? Do you encourage that relationship in future books? To put it more clearly. Later books cannot continue to be set in and around the world of clubs and dancers or the series will run the risk of becoming stagnant. The promised growth of Simone would never come and her change (not into something better just something else) is imperative to the success of the series.

Simone’s world of dancers (and their hierarchy), clubs, boyfriends, hangers on, club managers and sleazy and not so sleazy managers and handlers is skillfully rendered. I can’t honestly say how accurate Redheads portrayal of the dancing life is. But what I can say is that the portrayal is vivid and feels real and a level of verisimilitude is reached that most books fail to attain.

My biggest problem with the book was a result of the plot set up. Simone’s friend, another dancer, is being held by a local heavy for a finite period of time, two weeks. Simone has to find out who killed this guys brother and serve up the name for him to mete out the justice. This is an arrangement that is filled with tension, drama, suspense and motive to work the case. But. If the person being held is truly close to Simone and she is constantly aware of the time constraints put on her then how does she have time to start a relationship with one guy and flirt around the edges of another with a different guy? How does she have the time to go away on a weekend trip with her new guy, especially when the trip has nothing to do with the case? These side tracks drained the story of it’s deserved tension at times or supplanted it with false tension (one of the men is abusive).

I really hope that The Outfit has plans to bring out the other Simone Kirsch novels because minor criticisms aside really I enjoyed the book and was wholly entertained and I can’t wait to read them and hope I have the chance to do so.

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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About Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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