MARK TERRY – Dirty Deeds. High Country Publishers, trade paperback, 2004.

MARK TERRY Dirty Deeds

   If this is the first of a series, which is the way it reads to me, I think it should be a good one — the series, I mean. Dirty Deeds is a nicely developed combination of the hard-boiled private eye novel with well-honed computer geekiness, with super-rich Meg Malloy as the leading protagonist – she was in on the construction of the World Wide Web, and as a result she’s now independently wealthy.

   She’s also a high-paid computer consultant in the suburban Detroit area, but when Reverend James Walker learns that one of the jobs her ex-husband had was as a private investigator, he thinks that perhaps she can be of some additional assistance to him.

   (Of course her ex-husband is also an ex-systems analyst, an ex-teacher, and ex-website designer, among other things, and Meg says that the only one he’s ever been good at is ex-husband.)

   Reverend James is a TV evangelist, and he seems to have neglected his daughter, who is in trouble. Evidence: a video tape of either her rape or an example of what she is doing now for a living.

   When Meg finds herself in over her head – just a little (page 61) – coming to her aid is Jack Bear, from up Traverse City way, of Chippewa blood, and a man with a mysterious past. He’s vouched for by Meg’s (female) cousin, and the story this engenders is revealed only piecemeal, one morsel at a time.

   And the FBI and the Secret Service are somehow mixed in to whatever business Meg finds she’s stumbled into. Dirty deeds are Jack Bear’s specialties, the grey areas the police don’t always get into, and as the AC/DC song lyric says, done dirt cheap.

   The pace is fast, only a little ragged at times, and at only 192 pages – the old paperback standard! – the book goes quickly. The greatest weakness I found is that there’s not a lot of depth to the plot. It’s solid, a little rough around the edges, perhaps, but it’s also straightforward, and there doesn’t seem to be enough juice to make the story stand out more than it does.

   The characters are well-developed, though and as time goes on, I certainly wouldn’t object to seeing more of them. It looks like Meg Malloy and Jack Bear could have a future together, doing what they do, and I certainly hope it works out that way.

— January 2004

[UPDATE] 02-03-13.   While Mark Terry has followed this book with six adventures of Derek Stillwater, a troubleshooter for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, this, alas, is the only known case to have been tackled by the crack team-up of Meg Malloy and Jack Bear.