Dahlia Moss is unemployed and down to her last packet of ramen. In fact, things are so dire that if she does want cash, she will need to use an ATM that dispenses 10$ bills, as getting a 20$ out of her account is an impossibility. She is painfully single, after her boyfriend Eric left her for a dental hygienist, and there is no support from her family to speak of. Just as she is about to give up on life, her roommate Charice throws a party in the apartment that will change everything. The very odd, and extremely wealthy, Jonah Long comes to Dahlia with a proposition and a bubble pipe. In the game of the Kingdom of Zoth, Long has had a very precious item stolen from his inventory and he wants it back. He offers Dahlia a $1,000 dollars to begin her quest, promising her another $1,000 after she retrieves the Bejeweled Spear of Infinite Piercing and returns it to him. With limited experience in the game, mostly playing alongside Eric, Dahlia decides to throw herself into the mission. After all, she is getting paid to play a video game. Things take a sudden turn when Jonah Long is murdered by a facsimile of the Spear in real life. Suddenly, Dahlia finds herself playing detective for real at the behest, and financial givings, of Long’s family. It will take experience online and IRL (in real life) interactions with players of the game to discover just who killed Long, and might now be after Dahlia.
For those of us that have lived the life of one remaining ramen packet, no job in sight, and only a World of Warcraft account to guide us home, The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss is laugh out loud funny. For those who don’t know what IRL, NPCs or Respawns are, it may take a little more time to understand the story but it is entirely worth it. Writer Max Wirestone creates a character in Dahlia that is not perfect, but manages to pick up the little traits and difficulties of a young woman struggling to be an adult, while desperately not wanting to embrace adulthood. In one particular sequence, Dahlia has begun to fall for a man she met during the investigation. She unloads on him briefly, panicking that he might be Jonah Long’s killer. Instead, it turns out he has a very good sense of humor and calls his parents so that Dahlia can explain her killer theory. This section is hilarious, especially for those readers like myself who spent their early college years dating off of sites like OKCupid.com.
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss was a good and uplifting murder mystery… yes that exists. The references in the book are painfully nerdy, but something this Fangirl understood and enjoyed. For those who have gone to Phoenix Comic Con, be prepared for understanding the layout of a fictional gaming convention, as well as delighting in references that remind readers of gameplay. It was just the book to usher me into fall with a smile. I only hope that Max Wirestone writes a sequel.
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss is available October 20, 2015 from Redhook Books.