This Dame for Hire

Written by Sandra Scoppettone
Review by Steve Lewis

Two blurbs by other authors on the cover of this one call it “noir” and “pulp,” but I beg to differ. Just because a book takes place in wartime Manhattan does not make it noir. And just because the leading character is a fledgling female private eye named Faye Quick does not make it pulp. There is no overriding sense of impending doom or disaster that characterizes what I think of noir. And Faye is pretty chipper all the way through, on her own for the first time, with her boss off to war overseas. The war is definitely part of the background, but that’s everyday living, and Scoppettone captures that aspect well—ration books, USO dances, the lack of available men, and so on—but that’s not noir, nor pulp – there’s too much self-awareness in Faye Quick’s chatter to be authentically pulp.

After finding a body of a young girl on a snowy Greenwich Village street in the prologue, Faye is hired four months later by the girl’s parents to find the killer, the police not yet having been successful.

It isn’t Hammett, nor even Chandler, but Scoppettone is smooth, witty and charming, all at once in a peculiarly unique way, taking us back as she does to an America in its adolescent years, only slowly becoming aware of the terrors of the world. The killer, to report on that, is relatively easy to spot—which means that I did—but the pleasure entailed in reading this book lies elsewhere: in the sheer pleasure of reading.