Liza Cody’s Dupe ought to be a controversial inclusion for Patti Abbott’s Forgotten Friday series. True, it’s almost thirty years since the book appeared, in 1980, but it won the John Creasey Memorial Dagger for best debut crime novel of the year, and it introduced us not only to a fine author, but also to a fine character, the private eye Anna Lee.
Anna is an appealing character: youthful, a bit frustrated, and currently bottom in the pecking order at Brierley Security, Private Investigations. When the bereaved parents of Deirdre Jackson approach Brierley Security, wanting to know more about the car crash that killed their daughter, it doesn’t seem like a great job, so naturally it goes to Anna. But as she investigates the down-at-heel film business in which Deirdre worked, she discovers that there was more to the death than met the eye. The title of the book, naturally, has a double meaning.
This was one of those books I read in the eighties, and from which I sought a bit of inspiration, when I was thinking about what it took to write a fresh new mystery series. I liked Cody’s crisp, economical style of writing, the plausible way in which Anna and her colleagues were depicted, and the evocative way in which she depicted Anna Lee’s London. These qualities are enduring strengths of her work, and it was no surprise when the Anna Lee series was adapted for television. With that excellent actor Imogen Stubbs in the title role, it should have been a winner. But somehow the mix didn’t work, and Liza seems to have become disillusioned with the Anna Lee series. It’s a long time since this appealing character last appeared.
Happily, Liza Cody continues to write novels and short stories (she also co-edited three volumes of the CWA anthology before I took over the editorship), although these appear less frequently than in the past. She is not by any means a forgotten author, and Dupe definitely should not be a forgotten book.