Gangster Girl, By Dreda Say

Jane Jakeman
Thursday 25 March 2010 01:00
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Bitch brief Daisy Sullivan defends mobsters so successfully she is known as "Got-off Daisy". She's the pill-poppin' daughter of a gangster father in this multi-racial thriller set in London's East End, from which she is desperate to escape through her career in law. Daisy is about to make it to respectability, through her posh-bloke totty Jerome, when a beloved old colleague dies and she has to investigate his study. When she gets to a secret deposit box, out flies a whirlwind of trouble that seems to centre on her own past.

Is she really the daughter of Madam Stella, a woman so businesslike that her brothel boasts an ATM? Also, Stella's sadistic brother sports a tattoo of a grand piano on his neck and finds his instrument handy for concealing victims.

The search for Daisy's birth mother drives her further into dangerous territory until her best pal in these exciting chambers, platinum blonde barrister Angel, falls foul of gangland brutality. The construction of the Olympic Village is providing convenient wet concrete foundations for the disposal of bodies, the pressures are driving her to take more of those little helpers, and she starts to have hallucinations of her dead father.

But there is possible support from gorgeous Ricky, who provides much wilder sex than Jerome, and from Basher Babs, highest-ranking woman officer in the Met. Stir in the doyenne of the Shim-Sham-Shimmy Club, the toughest transvestite in London, and Daisy's gang starts to look pretty tough.

Dreda Say Mitchell's wildly improbable soap-opera plot is sustained by a narrative drive that overcomes all disbelief, with a cliff-hanger at the end of every chapter and a vitality of language that leaps from every page. There is a sad depth to Daisy's desire to find her family, and an understanding of what gangs are about – networks of people who will stand by you. Daisy packs a shooter and her heroine is the Doris Day of Calamity Jane, but we know she'll never make it to the pine cabin and the gingham curtains.

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