Conary (Still a Bitch, 2015, etc.) introduces private investigator Rachel Cord in this hard-boiled detective novel.
Gulf War veteran Cord is a no-nonsense private investigator in the heartland, scraping by on missing persons cases and trying to save up for breast-reduction surgery. “My breasts are huge,” she explains with characteristic bluntness, but “they don’t get me the respect I feel I deserve.” She’s called in to investigate a rash of assaults near a local cross-dressing cabaret. A gang of burly men in tracksuits have been attacking its performers; the most recent victim is in a coma. Cord takes the case, even though she’s still involved in the search for a runaway: a 14-year-old girl with the body of a grown woman who reminds Cord of her younger self. “I think she’s ripe for exploitation,” fears the P.I. The girl’s father molested her in the past, and Cord thinks she may fall prey to the predatory elements of the city. As Cord tries to get a handle on both mysteries, she finds herself embroiled in all manner of crime and mayhem, dredging up past traumas and calling into question her own morality and sexuality. Conary writes Cord with a wonderfully aggressive brusqueness that fills every scene, even as it hints at a deep vulnerability. The slogan on her business card, from which the novel takes its name, is only a taste of her P.I. bravado. The novel rushes along at a pace that barely leaves any time to take in the noirish scenery, hopping from twist to twist with verve and alacrity. Most enjoyably, a cast of LGBT characters—including the concupiscent Cord—offers a welcome inversion of typical genre tropes. It places investigators, victims, and victimizers on a level playing field, explores their complexities, and reveals their humanity. While Conary is hardy reinventing the genre, she does manage to breathe some life into it, and Cord and her quarry are compelling enough to keep readers following along until the end.
An engaging hard-boiled adventure with a memorable protagonist.