From the mid 1990’s to early 2000’s, Vancouver residents were filled with anxiety and worry due to a serial killer who was lurking the streets, particularly around the downtown eastside. He was interested in the prostitutes of the city, “bodies for hire, disposable girls”(99). During the events leading up to the arrest of the killer, Nancy Lee wrote Dead Girls, a collection of 8 short stories focused on women and their struggles at this time, related to the murders or not. The stories often include a wide array of varied subject matter including detail of intimate relationships, emotional struggles, love, and loss; to name a few. Lee plays with different points of view between stories, and even writes “Sally, In Parts” in segments about one woman’s body parts. The great variety involved in the collection provides a successful way to keep the reader interested throughout the book. Lee also includes a variety of situations which her characters inhabit. From stories involving high school students, to middle aged women, there is a comprehensive set of scenarios included in the collection.
From a distance, the contents seem to indicate a successful piece of writing; unfortunately, however, all is not well with the collection. Many stories include painfully detailed description. While some description was powerful in its brutal honesty, some is delivered in an almost tasteless fashion. Perhaps it was just me who found it uncomfortable to read “Valentines”, which talks about a 13 year old girl’s sexual encounters. Another problem with Lee’s work is an overall lack of coherence between the stories. The title of the book refers to the dead women of the serial killer, but multiple stories barely graze the topic of these murders, and this is the only link between every short story. Lastly, through the majority of the book, I paused to wonder what the point of the segment I was reading is. By the end of the book, I had still not found an answer.
While Dead Girls is by no means a poorly written collection, or even lacking in relevant issues, it is not on my recommended list. For the average reader, it is too tough of a text to swallow. If you are interested in social issues, especially ones involved in women’s daily life, this may be worth a read, but don’t be surprised if it leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth.