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by Michael Simon
Penguin, September 2005
336 pages
ISBN: 0143035312

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Detective Dan Reles is in the Austin Police Department and holding on by the skin of his teeth. His partner's death hit him hard and members of his department would like for him to disappear.

Meanwhile, the torso of a human body is found during an investigation. This torso is that of a woman, who was probably a current drug user and was a prostitute. The rest of the body has yet to be discovered but Reles and his team are calling her 'dirty Sally.'

As the police attempt to identify the remains, various parts of her body begin to show up all over town. They are sent to various prominent community members, although there is not an obvious connection between these people. Reles must attempt to find a connection between them, a reason that the woman was killed and who she was.

Reles is not the best lead for an investigation and he is aware of this fact. He is attempting to follow in his partner's footsteps even though he does not believe he is up to the task. His self-doubt becomes worse as this investigation leads towards police corruption. If Reles wants to keep his job and stay out of trouble, he must find the murderer quickly and quietly.

DIRTY SALLY is a gritty noir murder mystery. The story is dark. Almost all of the characters are disillusioned by life and this influences their behaviors. Most of the characters have unhappy pasts that they are still trying to escape or futures that they hope they can avoid. In addition, the life of a drug-addicted prostitute is not an easy or pleasant one. As the police investigate the victim's life, they must deal with numerous players still in the game.

Dan Reles is not the type of protagonist who is easy to warm up to. He has a chip on his shoulder against the entire world, and is full of self-hatred and cynicism. Once the plot is developed, he begins to gain a more approachable side. Some of this change is due to the fact that Reles comes to life during the investigation and some of it is simply due to the fact that the author has had the chance to work on character development. As Reles becomes more human, the book takes on a level of entertainment that was previously lacking.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, December 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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