PEEPSHOW — By Leigh Redhead (Book Review)

Peepshow (Outfit Crime, 2009) is the first novel by Australian writer Leigh Redhead, and yes, that is her real name. It is the first of three novels featuring Detective/Stripper Simone Kirsch. Simone originally wanted to become a police officer, but her history of working in the sex industry saw her bumped from consideration, so she chose the next best thing: a private investigator’s license.

Her PI career takes off with a boom when the owner of a local strip joint is murdered and Simone’s best friend Chloe, a dancer at the club, is kidnapped. Simone makes a deal with the kidnappers; if she can find the real killer in two weeks, Chloe will be spared. Her investigation takes her in and out of rock clubs, strip clubs, fetish clubs, and onto the floor of a sex industry conference. Meanwhile she’s dodging wise guys and crooked police, all while still having to earn enough of a living to make her rent.

Based on Ms. Redhead’s true life biography, it is clear she is drawing from much personal experience in depicting the scenes of this book, and it shows in the level of detail. The story has strippers, sex, drugs, and rock n . . . er, mostly country music. And that’s one of the things I loved about it! The fact that this book, by an Australian writer, references so much of the country music from my collection (Steve Earle, Vanessa Williams, Johnny Cash, et al) made it damn fun. And a scene toward the end where all these dive bar/strip club dwellers convene at an outside barbecue in broad daylight and how odd they look, to Simone, out of their element — classic! It reminded me of the summer I helped my wife build a straw bale house in Tucson, AZ. The day of the wall raising — when a couple truckloads of straw bales had to be stacked up in a shape resembling a dwelling — several of her friends from the Tucson music community showed up dressed as they would for a night on the town. Redhead’s description of her literary BBQ harkened back to this event from my own life so perfectly that I was grinning ear to ear.

The book is fast-paced, and if there are maybe a few too many coincidences moving the plot here and there, they are to be forgiven because the story is such a rollicking good time with so many memorable characters. Simone is an excellent lead and fun to spend time with. I enjoyed the Aussie slang employed throughout, and also liked to see the inner workings of the world of peep shows and strip clubs.

There are at least two more Simone Kirsch crime novels, and I’m hoping that The Outfit sees fit to reissue them as well.

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