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Peepshow by Leigh Redhead
From the Dustjacket
Simone Kirsch, aka Vivien Leigh, is funny intelligent and sexy.
And she needs it all as she goes undercover, stripping at the table dancing club, the Red Room, to find out who killed the sleazy owner, Francesco 'Frank' Parisi. It's the only way to get her best friend Chloe back from Frank's underworld brother Sal, who says he'll kill her unless Simone can come up with the real murderer.
After graduating top of her private investigator's course and working in a peepshow, Simone has a few tricks up her sleeve...and she's never been afraid of getting herself into sticky situations. But now she's tangling with the city's most corrupt cop, some crazy strippers and a rockabilly band called Las Vegas Grind.
Publisher : Allen & Unwin
First published : 2004
ISBN : 1865086371
No. Pages : 291 pages
Working in a Melbourne peepshow is not the most likely place to meet a private investigator, but then, Simone Kirsch, or Vivien Leigh as she is known when grinding away, is most definitely not your average PI. Leigh Redhead has hit the crime fiction scene with a debut thriller that takes place in a colourful array of sleazy St Kilda nightclubs and table dancing clubs featuring a strong, sexy protagonist with a lot of the right moves. Now she just has to learn to use them in her role as detective.
The murder of Frank Parisi, owner of The Red Room, a table-top dancing club in Melbourne's St Kilda has prompted his brother Salvatore to embark on a quest for revenge. Sal is a ruthless man and not very subtle about it either. He barges into Simone's best friend's apartment and takes Chloe captive, suspecting that she, as a dancer at the club, might know something about Frank's death.
In a complete act of desperation and armed only with a short introductory investigator's course, Simone assures Sal that she is a private investigator and is well equipped to bring him the murderer's name in exchange for Chloe's freedom.
So Simone goes undercover...as a stripper. Ironic, is it not?
While working the exotic dancing scene we are introduced to a varied array of characters, both delightful and disgusting. Dancers, strippers, dominatrixes and submissives and all of the slime-balls who are drawn to them like moths to a flame are all given a shining moment in the spotlight. Colourful? For sure, there are no shortages of eye-catching moments in Simone's new job.
Simone, though, wastes no time running her investigation, casually questioning the girls of The Red Room. Unfortunately, she quickly discovers that Frank Parisi was such a massive scumbag that just about everybody who ever came in contact with him would have had a motive to have him murdered. Meanwhile, she is busy congratulating herself on her prowess as an undercover operative while in true thriller style, she has come to the attention of enemies and her undercover routine may very well have been for nothing.
Dirty cops, murderous mobsters and a pulsating entertainment scene are neatly drawn together to provide a hard-core backdrop to the story and remains a constant reminder of the money-hungry frenzy in which the industry is based.
The style is raw and the plotting at times is ragged. One particularly outrageous coincidence, upon which the story hinges, was perpetrated towards the end of the story and was just too much to ignore. But the detailed character analysis and the upbeat optimism of Simone and her colleagues drives the story with tremendous vigour and this ensures that the mood is fresh, even in what should be the sleaziest scenes.
It comes as no accident that the strip-show and table dancing scenes are told with great insight and detail. Leigh Redhead is not only talking the talk through Simone's narration, she has also walked the walk, having worked as a Melbourne stripper years before. The emotion, the tiredness or the dancer's boredom or excitement all come straight from her own experience and gives an added realness to the story.
Leigh Redhead has come out in her debut novel blazing away strongly with a deadly mixture of hot sex and brutal violence. Opening as a rather trite but titillating little story, the complexity builds along with the danger until we have before us a nicely constructed, taut thriller. Simone Kirsch is a protagonist you find you want to learn more about, and the good news is, you can with a second book (Rubdown) following fast on the heals of Peepshow.
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