Jo Perry is well known and loved, round these parts, for her series of “Dead is…” books featuring Charlie & Rose. Those books – which I have described as being what would happen if Samuel Beckett wrote a crime series, as well as being “Like ‘The Wire’ meets ‘The Tibetan book of the dead” – are almost impossible to classify: They are about a dead man and his only companion – an (also dead) red setter. They feature chapter headings that are quotes about or ruminations on death. And they are almost poetic in how they use the form of a crime novel to consider what makes us human, why cruelty exists, and what it actually means to be alive.

If the Charlie & Rose novels are literary mandalas, Everything Happens, by contrast, is like walking into a Las Vegas megaclub at three in the morning when everything is noise and light and fluorescence and when, ahem, EverythingHappens.

It’s got robbery with violence, car chases, car crashes, carjacking, kidnapping, petty larceny, double crossing, triple crossing, death, vengeance and wedding dresses. If you’re looking for something considered about life and death, pop over to the Charlie & Rose stories. If you want an absolute roller coaster ride of Noir loveliness with a sense of mayhem just barely held in check, this is the book for you.

Everything Happens is a genuine, instantly recognisable Noir. It’s about desperate people doing increasingly desperate things and one knows almost from the first page as Perry’s heroine Jennifer pushes a clapped out old Subaru across the desert to Las Vegas, that she is heading to a date with destiny. It feels dirty and cinematic and instantly tense, and as the story unfolds and we discover the focus of her journey we’re brought into a story that asks what happens to people when the world has emptied them out. What do we become when we have nothing left to lose?

I loved this novella (but you may already have guessed that). It has some genuine darkness and a heroine who’s both flawed and deserving of so much more than the world has given her. There’s also a self-centred asshole and his equally self-serving girlfriend co-conspirator, a wonderfully deranged and mismatched weed shop owner and store manager who act as the most wonderfully Nuts Nemesis to the story. There’s a kidnapper who’s both terrifying and touching, and – as in the best of Noir – there’s a sense that this is not, and was never meant to be – a redemption story. 

Most of the people in here are broken at the start and broken at the end. And the joy is not in watching their redemption or their developing self awareness (though there is some of that in one or two points) but in watching, open mouthed, as the story unfolds, wondering who’ll be left alive, and trying to work out why you care so deeply about such fucked up people.

And that’s the genius of Perry, ably demonstrated in this short but brilliant book: There are almost no easily likeable characters, but their humanity, their reality, makes you care about them. You want them – even as you know they wouldn’t listen to your advice if they were with you – to succeed.

Well, you want that for some of them.

The book is truly cinematic (Get Netflix on the line. Because between the damaged characters, the locations, the action sequences, the hyperreality and the whip smart dialogue, this is basically the ultimate Pulp movie in waiting), and as the nights draw in and the weather, for some of us, gets darker and colder I can’t think of a better way to pass an evening than in the company of Jo Perry and the wonderfully dark, deranged and delightful Everything Happens.

Oh, and lastly, it’s released on October 31st in a double bill with my own Danny Bird Novella “Death of a Sinner.”

Buy the book here:

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