Salon Beauty Best Books of the Month Introducing Prime Wardrobe nav_sap_plcc_ascpsc Unlimited Music. Always ad-free. Learn more. Fire TV Grocery Handmade Personalized Jewelry Home and Garden Book a house cleaner for 2 or more hours on Amazon TheGrandTour TheGrandTour TheGrandTour  Echo Fire tablets: Designed for entertainment Kindle Paperwhite GNO Shop now Start your Baby Registry

VINE VOICEon November 13, 2012
I've read the author's literary novels and loved most of them so I decided to check out her early crime novels, which she doesn't seem to be too fond of now. I actually tried reading Dead Clever awhile ago but couldn't get into it. I guess I just wasn't in the mood. I'm glad I decided to give it another shot, because it definitely wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be. It started off well enough. First few chapters before Lily gets involved in sleuthing are actually good. Then it goes kind of bad for a couple of chapters, especially the chapters dealing with her teaching classes. She wasn't very good, and I wondered how low the standards at this university were! The book picks up again after that, and is actually mostly entertaining as our sleuth meets the previous lecturer (a writer of cheap horror novels), walks the shore and goes clubbing with an old friend. Towards the end, as our sleuth uncovers what's really going on and plays hero, I kind of lost interest. The villain was obvious pretty early on. I definitely enjoyed the more mundane parts of the book rather than when Lily thinks about the murder. I haven't read a mystery novel in years, so I might be biased in that regard. I also found it a little annoying how hard Lily worked to clear the name of a man she had one date with.

The writing itself was mostly okay, though it did use a lot of clichés. Her literary novels are definitely better written, but since this was her first novel, I was able to give it a pass. In the end, I'd give this book three and a half stars, rounded down to three because there's lots of room for improvement. Hopefully the other two novels in this series are a bit better. Lily was a mostly likable character, so I definitely wouldn't mind spending more time with her.
|0Comment|Report abuse
on November 5, 2006
Scarlett Thomas has a very clear, enjoyable writing style that lends itself well to the mystery genre. Her characters are interesting and complicated, her stories are tricky (in the end), but easy to follow. A joy from start to finish and recommended even to those who don't usually dip into the mystery genre, as I myself do not, except for this series.

I've read almost all of Thomas's oeuvre (everything except "Mr. Y"), and I'd recommend any of them to anybody. I just find her books straight-out enjoyable.
3 people found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on January 13, 2016
Dead Clever starts off with Lily Pascale leaving her apartment and boyfriend in London for a respite at her mother's home in Devon. Having no job despite her education, Lily gets a job teaching literature at the local university in the wake of the grisly murder of Stephanie Duncan, who was found naked and headless. At first, Lily tries to establish a sense of normalcy in her life, but when she discovers Jason lying in the hall, dying and taking his information about Stephanie's death with him, she puts on her detective cap and tries to figure out what happened to the students and why. At the same time, she can't figure out why the others in the literature department are also acting strange, with her superior Valentine barely around and her colleague Fenn mysteriously disappearing. Along the way, she encounters a childhood friend whom she almost inadvertently kills; a creepy psychedelic cult which seems to include basically everyone she knows in town, aside from her family; and lots and lots of drugs.

Read more of my thoughts by clicking here:
|0Comment|Report abuse
on December 31, 2008
Quite ironic really considering the title of this distinctly routine piece; it wasn't dead clever to publish this and it must be wondered if Thomas regrets it now considering the outstanding Popco and The End of Mr Y rather like some actors have regretted appearing in certain films at the start of their careers. Let me put it this way, thank God I read The End of Mr Y first; if Dead Clever had been my introduction to Thomas' work it would have been my first and last. I won't bother giving yet another synopsis of the story, such as it is. Suffice to say that she does the English higher education system no favours at all: I mean can you really phone up, have a 2 minute chat and get a lectureship in a UK university and on the strength of a few weeks part time work, during which you do virtually no preparation, very little real teaching, no marking, give no tutorials and spend most of your time sleuthing around the `Devon drug scene', be rewarded by being made head of department?

Do yourselves a favour - skip this lightweight fluff and move straight on to either of the later novels. And to think some reviewers found it `brilliant'; the mind really does boggle!
|0Comment|Report abuse
on February 20, 2003
This first of three Lily Pascale mysteries is (how can I resist?) dead clever. Young Lily leaves her cheating boyfriend and dead-end London bartending job for some R and R in her small hometown in Devon where she promptly lands the perfect part-time job teaching crime fiction at the local university. Except one of her students has been gruesomely murdered. And some of the others are acting peculiar. And her new romantic interest comes under suspicion. Then the student who saw the whole thing (as we know, but Lily doesn't) seems to be going crazy.
Lily begins asking questions and before she knows it, she's investigating, withholding evidence and generally digging a deep hole she's only going to climb out of by solving the crime, a murder or two and a few close calls later. The plot gets a little wobbly but keeps moving, the characters are well drawn, the setting is lovingly rendered and the writing is crisp, fast-paced and humorous - though not quite as smart as it starts out to be. A promising beginning for a hip young protagonist.
5 people found this helpful
|22 comments|Report abuse
on November 24, 2006
I was quite disappointed upon finishing Dead Clever. After all, two august UK writers went to bat for Scarlett Thomas--Val McDermid and Reginald Hill--by allowing pleasant mumblings of theirs to be printed on the back cover of the book.

Lily Pascale is a young woman who's just finished her contemporary literature studies at the university level; and since then, she's been wasting her life by not getting a sensible job or boyfriend. When she finally adds things up, she runs back home to mom in rural Devon. Finding a bit of luck, she quickly lands a position at the local university teaching 1st and 2nd year students. Yet Lily was soon to discover that things are not as they seem in this sleepy little village!

What follows is a mildly interesting and somewhat silly tale of drugs and teachers acting unethically with their students. The science aspect to the book is wholly unbelievable and quite annoying--it almost seemed like Ms. Thomas was making fun of the genre in which she wishes to excel. Making her cat a character in the book, her sweet younger brother, and her disheveled but guileless gray-haired mother are all just cookie cutter stuff. It's a cute little chick lit book, and very unmemorable.
One person found this helpful
|0Comment|Report abuse
on June 14, 2009
Dead Clever engaged me for the first third, then I realized I didn't like where it seemed to be going: a few too many implausible events. But I came across the "word puzzle" and my interest was temporarily piqued. Oh, well, for the next evening I omitted half the book by skipping to the last 20-some pages. The ending confirmed I should be reading a better novel by someone else. And Dead Clever is a title chosen by two other writers. A pity.
|0Comment|Report abuse

Need customer service? Click here