This Dame for Hire (Faye Quick Series #1)

This Dame for Hire (Faye Quick Series #1)

4.5 6
by Sandra Scoppettone

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"I didn’t start out to be a private eye. I thought I was gonna be a secretary–get my boss his java in the morning, take letters, and so on. Hell, I didn’t get my degree in steno to put my life on the line. It was true I wanted an interesting job, but that I’d end up a PI myself . . . it never entered my mind."

New York, 1943.


"I didn’t start out to be a private eye. I thought I was gonna be a secretary–get my boss his java in the morning, take letters, and so on. Hell, I didn’t get my degree in steno to put my life on the line. It was true I wanted an interesting job, but that I’d end up a PI myself . . . it never entered my mind."

New York, 1943. Almost anything in pants has gone to serve Uncle Sam in the war–including Woody Mason, the head of a detective agency in midtown Manhattan. Left to run the show is his secretary, Faye Quick, who signed on to be a steno, not a shamus. At twenty-six and five foot four, there’s not much to Faye, but she’s got moxie–which she’ll need when she stumbles over a dead girl in the street and takes on her first murder case.

This victim wasn’t any ordinary girl. Claudette West was a student at NYU and the daughter of a Park Avenue family. Faye, who lives in bohemian Greenwich Village–where no one cares how you look–ventures uptown, where people care enough about money to kill for it. Claudette’s father is convinced greed was the motive, and that Claudette’s working-class boyfriend, Richard Cotten, killed the girl because she threw him off the gravy train.

Faye, however, isn’t so sure, not when she learns about all the other men Claudette was secretly seeing–from her lecherous literature professor to an apparent con artist. For Faye, there are more shocking surprises in store than turns and dips in the Coney Island Cyclone.

Going after the bad guys and fighting a good fight on the home front, Faye is as scrappy and endearing as any character Sandra Scoppettone has ever created, and This Dame for Hire’s period setting is rendered so real you can hear the big band music, see the nylons and fedoras, and feel the rumble of the Third Avenue El. When it comes to an irresistible detective and a riveting new series, you must remember this: Here’s looking at Faye Quick.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Advance praise for This Dame for Hire

“Like Rosie the Riveter, Faye Quick is another blue-collar woman doing a man’s job during World War II, except that Miss Quick is a New York dick–Sam Spade in lipstick and stockings. Sandra Scoppettone’s new mystery is a time-warped stroll back through a noir pulp novel, and it’s a true tour de force.”

“I love This Dame for Hire. Private investigator Faye Quick is a wonderful original, a unique new voice in crime fiction. And Sandra Scoppettone has captured the lingo and the essence of New York City during World War II.”

“All the synonyms for quick–snappy, brisk, witty, smart–apply to Sandra Scoppettone’s new character Faye Quick. This dame’s as likable a New Yorker as you’re apt to find outside da Bronx.”

“Sandra Scoppettone’s fresh and funny This Dame for Hire launches an endearing sleuth who wisecracks, totes a gat when needed, and tells it like she sees it in a superbly rendered World War II Manhattan. Ya gotta love smart-mouthed Faye Quick, and I predict readers will adore her.”

“Spending time with This Dame for Hire is like time traveling to the 1940s–and hearing a great and entertaining mystery on the family radio. Sandra Scoppettone doesn’t merely write about New York during World War II, she takes us there–and every minute of the trip is believable and enjoyable. Faye Quick is a terrific, sassy new voice. Let’s hope for more of her–quickly!”

“This first novel in a major new series set in New York City during World War II features a female gumshoe who’s a little bit Myrna Loy and a little bit Philip Marlowe’s younger sister–but very much her own woman. Funny, tender, historically fascinating, This Dame for Hire has something for mystery readers of every kind.”

“What a voice This Dame has! It’s 1943, and the world-weary gumshoe has gone off to war, turning the detective agency over to his gum-snapping, wisecracking secretary. Think Joan Blondell, PI, and you’ve got the picture. New York is here in all its noir glory, from fancy uptown digs to bohemian Greenwich Village. I hope to see a lot more of Faye Quick–she’s irresistible!”

“Faye Quick is a terrific character—honest, forthright, and funny. And seen through her eyes, New York City in 1943 is a great place to visit.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
This is one hard-boiled, gritty, noir mystery…with a fresh new twist. Guys, hold onto your fedoras -- Miss Faye Quick is cutting into your turf!

When New York P.I. Woody Mason goes off to war, he leaves his secretary in charge of his business. While some may say it's no job for a dame, in 1943 the fair sex is turning up in lots of unexpected places on the home front, from airplane factories to detective agencies. As for Faye, she has a natural bent for sleuthing. After she trips over a body on Bleecker Street, she turns the case over to the cops. But when they come up empty, the deceased's grieving parents hire Faye to find their daughter's killer. Once her stocking seams are lined up straight, Faye's off and running, tracking down the bad guys and making sure justice is served at home while the menfolk are off at war. Sandra Scoppettone, a veteran writer with 18 novels -- including the Lauren Lorano series -- under her belt, brings her sharp-witted heroine to life with gangster-era slang and a vibrant vision of WWII-era New York City in a murder mystery worthy of any gumshoe. Sue Stone
Publishers Weekly
An original idea-a female PI working on her own in 1943-and an unusually imaginative portrait of a New York City coping, surviving, even thriving during WWII lift the first of a new suspense series from Scoppettone (Gonna Take a Homicidal Journey). Faye Quick makes a tough and touching heroine, with a voice that just cries out for an actress like Ida Lupino to bring her to cinematic life. She starts as a secretary, learns everything her sleazy but charming boss knows about being a detective, then assumes charge of the agency after her employer is drafted. "Even though I looked like any 26-year-old gal ankling round New York City in '43, there was one main difference between me and the rest of the broads," Faye tells us. "Show me another Jane who did my job and I'd eat my hat." This lively, slightly mocking tone continues at perfect pitch, as Quick finds the dead body of a missing young woman on a snowy street, then is hired by the victim's parents to catch the killer. There are echoes of Chandler and Hammett in the distance, but the plot offers some fresh surprises. Best of all, Quick's 1943 New York looks like old magazine and newspaper photographs come to life-not faded but enhanced by the passage of time. Agent, Charlotte Sheedy. (July 5) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Faye Quick Series, #1
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt


I didn’t start out to be a private eye. I thought I was gonna be a secretary—get my boss his java in the morning, take letters, and so on. Hell, I didn’t get my degree in steno to put my life on the line. It was true I wanted an interesting job, but that I’d end up a PI myself . . . it never entered my mind.

Back in 1940 when I went for my interview, one look at Woody Mason and I thought for sure it was gonna be a bust.

There he was, brogans up on the wobbly wooden table he called his desk, wearing dark cheaters in the middle of the day, his trilby pulled down so low on his head it was a week before I knew he had straw-blond hair. A butt hung from his thin lips, smoke curled up past his rosy nose. I wondered if he was a boozehound.

“I’m Faye Quick,” I said.

“Good for you.”

“Mr. Mason, I came for the job. You wanna good secretary or not?” That got his attention.

Mason slid his legs off the desk, pushed down the sunglasses, and over the rims eyeballed my gams, while he stubbed out his Old Gold and lit a new one. So what did I expect from a gumshoe?

My friends told me I was a crackpot trying for a job with a shamus. But I thought it could be interesting. I didn’t want to be in some nine-to-fiver pushing papers that had to do with mergers, business agreements, or the like. I wanted to be where whatever I was typing or listening to had some meat to it.

“Are ya?” Mason asked.

“Am I what?”


To myself I thought, Hardy, har, har, but I didn’t say it. I gave him a look instead.

“Sorry. Guess ya get that a lot.”


“Sometimes I open my big yap too much. So Miss Quick, you wanna work for me?”

“That’s the general idea,” I said, and thought maybe he was a little slow or something. But Woody Mason was anything but slow, I was to find out.

We went through some Q and A’s, then he hired me on the spot. I was slaphappy getting a job my first day looking.

That was how it was then.

But in ’41 the Japs hit Pearl Harbor, and by January of ’42, Woody Mason was in the army and I was running A Detective Agency. The A didn’t stand for anything. He named it that so it would be first in the phone book. By the time I took over I knew almost as much as Woody, but in the beginning it was a scary idea.

“I’m not sure, boss.”

“Ah, Quick, you can do it. I got complete confidence in ya.”

“Yeah, but I don’t.”

“Listen, when I come back from this clambake I wanna have a business to come home to. You gotta keep the home fires burning, like they say.”

“That’s not what it means: a girl like me packin a heater and chasin the bad guys. Keepin the home fires burnin means sittin in the nest waitin for your man.”

“Ain’t I your man, Quick?” Woody smiled, the dimples making their mark in his cheeks, and my heart slipped a notch.

I wasn’t in love with Woody, but he was a looker when he gave ya the smile. Mostly he reserved it for female clients. But on that day he brought it out for me.

“You’re my boss, Mason, not my man.”

“Ah, hell. Ya know what I mean.”

“Even still. I can’t be a PI.”

“Why not?”

I wanted to tell him I didn’t know how, but he knew that was a lie. So I said, “I’m afraid.”

“Hell you are, Quick. I never saw the likes of you when it comes to guts.”

I had been on a few stakeouts with him and never showed any fear even when we got into close shaves.

“If you’re thinkin of some of those cases we did together, well, I had you with me, Mason.”

“Ah, you coulda handled them alone.”

“How’d ya know?”

“I know ya, Quick. I knew it from the first day I laid my headlights on ya.”

“You were hungover and ya woulda hired King Kong.”

“But I didn’t. I hired you, and now I gotta get my rump overseas and knock off some Nips. Ya gotta take over.”

“What if I’m so lousy at this I lose the agency.”

“Ya won’t.”

And so far I hadn’t.

I’m not what you’d call a raving beauty, but some even call me pretty, and I agree I’ll pass. Take today. I was wearing a short-sleeved cream-colored dress that was covered with bright blue intersecting circles, cinched below my bosom and belted at the waist. My hair was black, the long sides ending in a fringe of manufactured curls, and every hair in my pompadour was in place. But I was getting sick of this style, and I’d been thinking of changing. Maybe I’d get it cut short, shock the pants off my pals. Rolling and pinning were getting to be a pain in the derriere.

My mouth was small but full; my nose had a little bump, but it was okay. So the point was that even though I looked like any twenty-six-year-old gal ankling round New York City in ’43, there was one main difference between me and the rest of the broads. Show me another Jane who did my job and I’d eat my hat. And I wouldn’t relish that cause my brown felt chapeau had a bright red feather sticking up from the left side of the brim, and I knew the feather would tickle going down.

Once or twice I had some numbskull who thought a dame couldn’t handle his so-called important case, but most people didn’t care that I was a girl, and they knew any self-respecting male private dick was fighting to keep us safe.

So I wasn’t hurting for things to do when my secretary, Birdie, showed the Wests into my office. But I was surprised, even though it was no mystery why they’d come to me as I was the one who’d discovered their daughter’s body and no one had been arrested so far. I lit a Camel and listened while they talked.

The man and woman who sat on the other side of my desk were in their late forties to early fifties and looked fifteen years older. Having yer child murdered will do that to you.

Porter West was a big man, but he slumped in his chair like a hunchback. His thinning blond hair was turning the color of old corn. And his brown eyes were dull and defeated.

His wife, Myrna, was a brunette, spear-thin with skin that looked like tracing paper and eyes too sad to look into.

“Will you take the case, Miss Quick?”

“Yeah, I’ll take it,” I said. “But starting this late after the murder will make it harder.”

“Well, the police haven’t done anything,” Mrs. West said. Her voice was shrill.

I knew the coppers had probably done plenty. Still, this was what people who were connected to unsolved murders believed. I didn’t say this to Mrs. West. I nodded in a way I hoped would give her the idea that I agreed with her and was sympathetic, which I was.

“You have to understand that chances are slim that I’ll find the killer.”

West said, “We have no other choice.”

“Well, my fee is—”

“We don’t care what the fee is.”

He was a lawyer with an important firm, and the Wests were in clover.

“I have to tell ya anyway.”

When that was settled, West gave me a picture of his dead daughter, a folder that included a history of Claudette West’s short life, and all the newspaper clippings about the case. The murder, as I well knew, had taken place four months before.

“You don’t have police reports, do ya?”

He snorted. “What do you think?”

“They wouldn’t give us anything,” she said.

“Not even the names of possible suspects?” I asked.

“There was only one. Her ex-boyfriend, Richard Cotten.” She wrinkled her small nose like she was smelling Limburger.

“He was never charged,” West said.

“But he was a suspect?” I knew he was.

“For a time.”

“I guess neither of ya liked him much.” I stubbed out my butt in the overflowing glass ashtray.

“Liked him? Cotten is a despicable bastard,” he said.

“Tell me why ya say that?”

“He didn’t love her. He was only interested in her money.”

I’d heard this before, but mostly from wives hiring me to follow husbands they think are stepping out on them.

Mrs. West said, “He was from a poor family and was raised by a working mother. Not that there’s anything wrong with a mother working, but she was never there and Richard ran wild.”

I could tell Myrna West didn’t think a mother should work no matter what.


“Shot in a bar fight when Cotten was four,” West said.

“Richard is a very angry person.”

“Did he hit your daughter?”

He said, “Oh, no. But he showed it in other ways.”


“It was the way he talked to her. He always acted as if she was dumb, said hurtful things. That’s what we observed the three or four times we saw them together.”

“Claudette would have told us if he’d hurt her physically,” Myrna said.

I wasn’t sure that was true.

“You ever talk to her about the things he said to her?”

“Yes. She said that it was just his way.” West shook his head in disgust.

“You said ex-boyfriend. How long before the murder had they split up?”

“Only a few weeks.”

“Do you have a picture of him?” I’d seen his picture in the paper, but I hadn’t kept it.

“You’ll find one in the clippings.”

“Did he go to NYU, too?” I already knew the answer.

“Yes. And he’s still there. They were juniors when it happened. Didn’t you read the papers, Miss Quick? Weren’t you interested, considering?”

“Yeah, sure. But I didn’t keep a file.”

The expression on Porter West’s pale pinched face looked as though he didn’t approve. I ignored it.

“Being a suspect didn’t change his life; it made him a kind of hero.”

I also knew this, but I wanted to get the straight skinny from the father.

Anger flashed in West’s eyes, a small sign of life. “Some of the students got behind him, saying he was being picked on because he was poor.”

“That he was a wonderful, kind boy,” she said.

“The boy is a C student.”

In my book this didn’t make him a murderer.

“I guess he had a lot of friends,” I said.

“But he didn’t. Not until this happened. There are always those people looking for a martyr. Finding injustice wherever they can,” West said.

“And there were no other suspects?”

“None that we knew about.”

That didn’t mean there weren’t any. I’d have to have a meet with a dick named Marty Mitchum. He’d been Woody’s connection, and he’d passed Mitchum on to me. Or maybe it was me to him.

“So, you suspect Cotten because he said mean things to your daughter and Claudette dumped him?”

West looked at me as though I was his enemy.

“I’m not crossin you, Mr. West. I’m just tryin to get things in place.”

“Yes. Those actions and the fact that he was after her money. When she broke it off with him, he knew that the pot of gold was out of reach, and it made him furious.”

This last was speculation, but I’d keep it in mind when I met with Cotten.

“Is there anything else I should know?” I lit another cig.

They looked at each other. Almost invisibly West shook his head at Myrna like a warning.

“No,” he said.

“Okay. That’s all for now. I’ll need your phone number.”

I took the number down, and West handed me a check.

“You’ll call us every day?”

“That’s not how I usually operate,” I said.

“That’s how I expect you to operate.”

“What I normally do is call the client if I have somethin to tell.”

“I don’t care what you normally do. I want you to call us daily.”

This was getting my goat, but I held back. “How about once a week unless I have somethin to tell you?”

“Every day.”

I didn’t like this arrangement, but I wanted this case. “Okay.”

“We’ll hear from you tonight,” he said.

“Mr. West, I have to go through this material. I’ll have nothin to say by tonight.”

He weighed this information. “Tomorrow night then.”

I nodded.

West put a hand on his wife and guided her toward the door. They went out and didn’t look back.

Charming people, I thought. Then I brought to mind what they’d been through, who they’d lost, and I gave them some slack.

I thought about when West shook his head at his wife and knew it could’ve meant a simple no to my question, but I felt it meant something else.

I didn’t know what it was.

But I knew I’d find out.

Meet the Author

SANDRA SCOPPETTONE has written numerous other novels, including three under the pseudonym Jack Early. Most recently she created the five-book series of mystery novels featuring New York private eye Lauren Laurano. Scoppettone lives on Long Island in New York. Visit her website at

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This Dame for Hire (Faye Quick Series #1) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With this book Scoppettone becomes to vintage New York crime writing what Chandler is to Los Angeles. The hard biting one liners begin on page one and don't rest until the last sentence of page 253. In-between there is plenty of action, plot and menacing murder suspects to keep the persistently professional yet charming PI protagonist up to her headlights in mystery. Whodunit? I ain't tell'n ya. Ankle on down to the book store as soon as this is released, cause this instant classic is go'n clear the shelves, Quick.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This reads like a movie with sharp dialogue and lots of action. Where? The Apple in the nineteen forties. Ditto to what all the other reviewers said. I kept casting it for a movie all the while I read it. I planned to read a little ever day and couldn't put it down, so I read it in one day. A day well spent.
harstan More than 1 year ago
She started out working as a secretary for Woody Mason of A Detective Agency in 1940 but when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he enlisted. Wanting to have the business when he came home, he made his secretary Faye Quick a private detective and she is now working her own cases with her own secretary to do the clerical work. Since January of 1942 she has been doing well for herself and not even tripping over the murdered body of a woman in the snow dousing her enthusiasm for life............. A few months after finding Claudette West, her parents arrive in her office wanting to hire Faye to find their daughter¿s killer because they believe the police aren¿t giving the case enough attention. Feeling an obligation to the woman, she accepts the case and quickly learns that Claudette had a lot of men interested in her and was pregnant. Faye pounds the pavement asking anyone who was close to Claudette what they knew of the men (most of them suspects) and the pregnancy. She thinks that there is a link between her lover and her murder. Applying solid investigative methods she is bound to find out who the killer is.................... New York City in 1943 is dark & gritty just like the case the protagonist is working on is. Sandra Scoppettone captures the ambience of the era through the use of historical facts and the era¿s vernacular. Renowned for her grand-breaking Lauren Laurano Novels, Ms. Scoppettone has created another fabulous series that is sure to win her an award nomination for its originality and brilliant characterizations........................ Harriet Klausner