Wednesday Review: Gerry McCullough Discusses Dead Is The New Black by Christine DeMaio-Rice

If you’re thinking you’ve already seen that cover on MWi recently you’re right. Christine was here before Christmas with a much-praised post on why men hate fashion.

Gerry McCullough

Christine will be back with us soon with a follow-up, but meantime, it being Wednesday and all, Christine’s book drew the short straw for dissection by everyone’s favorite reviewer, Gerry McCullough.

Withou further ado, here’s Gerry on Christine.

Dead Is the New Black

Reviewed by Gerry McCullough

I’ve been a fan of the classic detective story all my life. Of recent years, these have become harder and harder to find. Labelled ‘Crime Stories,’ they have become more and more police procedural/ serial killer in nature. To me a classic of the genre should have wit, imagination, and a puzzle element with fair play clues presented to the reader in a cleverly misleading way. The plot should be fast moving, full of twists and turns, and with a central character or characters who are easy to like.  The characters should not be mainly policemen, unless we are allowed into their private lives, although the occasional cop whom we can get to know is fine. It’s also a plus if the setting is interesting and is presented accurately in a way which tells the reader a lot about it, without dumping too much information.

Dead is the New Black fulfils all my requirements.

Set in the New York fashion world, it immediately attracted my attention. Rex Stout set several of his books here; and Marjorie Allingham’s marvellous The Fashion in Shrouds is similarly set in the London fashion scene. Christine DeMaio-Rice knows a lot about her background, and this makes the book especially fascinating and enjoyable to read. The sophisticated atmosphere takes us by the throat from the first page.

Then there are the characters. Laura and her work mates, particularly Jeremy St James, are vividly drawn. Laura, we learn straightaway, is hopelessly attracted to Jeremy. (She wonders herself if she would have dared to allow their relationship to develop if she hadn’t believed he was gay – because then there would have been a risk that it might become serious.)  So we feel sympathy for her from the start, and at the same time realise that we are in the hands of a writer who can give us characters with depth.  Laura’s sister Ruby is a bright contrast. Stu becomes more likeable the more we see of him.  And Cangemi, the cop, is a much cleverer detective than we are led to expect at the beginning.

Christine DeMaio-Rice

The handling of the plot is all we could ask for. The clues are thrust at us in a way we should be able to pick up – but almost certainly won’t.  The murderer appears in the first few chapters.  When Laura arrives at her desk to find coffee waiting for her, she tells us, she knows that Jeremy must be already there, because he is in the habit of buying coffee for them both on his way to work. The coffee, unusually, is spilt – which is not like Jeremy, she thinks. But when she goes to his office, she sees that he is in a state of extreme distress – he has found a dead body there.  Laura spends the next hours ringing the police, talking to the cop who arrives to take over, Cangemi, and assuring other members of the company who turn up for work that Jeremy is not guilty and that work will continue as normal.  And I wonder how many of DeMaio-Rice’s readers will be able to pick out the important clues, and identify the murderer, from what they have by now been told?  The motive, also, has already been trailed before us, even earlier in the action.

The title of this book tells us at once that here is a witty, clever writer, and the cover backs this up. The book is full of amusing one liners and funny situations.  As an example of the one liners, when Laura tells Stu, ‘I’m not pissed off with you,’ Stu says, looking at Laura slyly, ‘You’re honesty-challenged right now.’  Laura thinks, on hearing that Jeremy is in prison in Rikers, ‘If Central Park was the city’s backyard, Rikers was the haunted house down the block that your mother told you to stay away from.’  And Ruby and Laura decide to call their fashion business ‘Sartorial Sandwich.’ How about that?

And as an example of funny situations, the description of the sisters’ housing problems, with Ruby always coming out on top compared to Laura, is consistently amusing.

Laura’s tangled love life finally works out, just as her career does; and the murder mystery element is solved in a satisfying way which is clearly believable. This is one of a series, I’m told.  If the other books are as excellent as this one, I’ll look forward to reading them.

Chrstine has a book trailer for Dead Is The New Black on youtube. On a good day my ISP will let me add a video, but today is not a good day, so check it out here.

Christine has a great blog called Fashion Is Murder. Her book is available from and, not to mention Barnes & Noble.

Our thanks as always to Gerry for a great review. Dead Is The New Black is high on my TBR list. Sadly there just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with all the great indie books flooding the e-stores.

Ever since epublishing took off there’s been a lot of talk about how self-publishers are flooding the market with mindless rubbish. And badly typed mindless rubbish at that. And I’m sure it exists. Some people are quite concerned by this. Check out our co-writer Miriam Joy’s sister Bella for a non-writers’ viewpoint.

But my Kindle is coming up to its first birthday. I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve read on there, but strangely I have yet to find a single example of the “tsunami of crap” that supposedly makes it impossible for good books to stand out.

One reason for that is that I choose ebooks in the same way as I used to choose print books – by looking before I buy, and by reading reviews like this one of Gerry’s, to help find new material.

Reviewers play a crucial role in our lives as writers, and as readers.  We should all be thankful to people like Gerry who set aside time not just to read, but also to write in-depth reviews when they’ve finished.

As authors we know how valuable that service is. We all love it when someone publishes a review of our books. Yet so many of us, while craving reviews from others, rarely take time out to do it ourselves for the authors we read. And yes, I’m as guilty of that as anybody.

But writing a review – not just  a paragraph of praise on Amazon but a full review for Goodreads, or the author’s website, or here on MWi – is one easy way to thank the author for the pleasure they gave you, and to pay it forward for the future.

Speaking of pay it forward, watch out for some related news here on MWi this coming weekend!

Meanwhile, a reminder that today’s reviewer Gerry blogs regularly over at Gerry’s Books. Rather appropriately given discussion here on MWi yesterday, Gerry’s last review on on her own blog was of The Lord Of The Rings. Well worth checking out.

And if you like her reviewing style you’ll love her books. Gerry’s debut novel Belfast Girls is available on and

Her latest novel Danger Danger is of course also available on and


Finally here today just to add that that wonderful cover for Dead Is The New Black was designed by Christine herself.

In fact Christine has an alternative cover live on at the moment, which refuses to copy here. It’s jus one of those days…

One of the dilemmas of indie writing is were you pitch camp in the genre fields. It’s murder-mystery crime fiction but its also comedy-thriller and chicklit. It must be great to be able to design multiple covers to test the market.

But Christine’s talents range far wider. I leave you with three covers Christine recently produced for fellow MWiDP author Sarah Woodbury. Sarah will be here on MWi next week to tell us more about her life as a history obsessive, now combining authentic research and fantasy writing skills to good effect. Meanwhile, just sit back and admire Christine’s designer skills.

  1. Love it! We’ve just done a piece on stylish baby bags, I’d love for you to check it out!

    • Thanks Giorge. What a great site for chicklit writers to make sure their characters have the right accessories! I shall be returning here when we get China Town underway.

    • gerrymccullough
    • January 11th, 2012

    I like to write about books I’ve enjoyed – old favourites or new discoveries. It’s like talking to friends who also like books – but without being interrupted, until the comments start!

    • LOL!

      Thanks as always, Gerry for a great post. I don’t know how you find the time, but I;m glad you do.

      By the way if anyone out there has read Belfast Girls or Danger Danger we’d love you to come and do a review here of Gerry’s own books!

  2. Great review Gerry! Like Mark, I would love to spend more time reading and reviewing some of the great work out there – if only! 😉

    As Mark says in the post, check back at the weekend for some very exciting news!


  3. Looks like Bella’s post has had a wider reach than a thought – my site stats shot up when I posted it 🙂 She has written, herself. Several novels when she was about my age, and a bunch of stuff more recently, but it’s not what she wants to do in life. She says it’s all useless clichéd stuff, but as I haven’t read it I can’t say.

    • Not what she wants to do in life? Is this girl crazy? 🙂

      In fact Bella has agred I can run her post here on MWi next week, so we can hear first hand the voice if a trad-pub reader.

      • Oh, sounds like you’ve got some fun planned!

        (I so totally thought I posted a comment earlier, but being that I read this at 5:30 am my time, my brain probably wasn’t quite working. And I really ought to get back to my writing.)

        :} Cathryn

  4. Thanks for the great review, Gerry and I agree that reviewers like you provide an incredibly valuable service. I’ve already got “New Black” on my Kindle, but I might have to move it up the list. I’m so with you about police procedurals. I like mysteries that are a vehicle for meeting fascinating characters, not one more burnt out cop or serial killer. (“Being evil” is such a boring motive. Seriously.)

    Love, love love Christine’s covers. (That New Yorker font says so much!) Her own and the fantastic ones she designed for Sarah. Wow. Hadn’t seen those before.

    Oooooh I can’t wait for the big Pay it Forward announcement!

    • Very god point, Anne. Being evil per se is a pretty dull motive for any bad guy.

      Police procedurals and mysteries are indeed very different, though the trans-genre world of ebooks is blurring the distinction.

      Our own Sugar & Spice was written as a “whydunnit” thriller rather than a “whodunnit” mystery, with police procedure incidental to rather than central to the story (like your Ghostwriters, an officer is involved, but it’s not his story). So delighted, but also surprised, to pick up the Red Adept award for best mystery.

  1. January 11th, 2012
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