Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Dead to Me

Rate this book
LA Confidential for the YA audience. This alluring noir YA mystery with a Golden Age Hollywood backdrop will keep you guessing until the last page.

"Don't believe anything they say."

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her--and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn't a kid anymore, and this time she won't let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets--and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie's attacker behind bars--if Alice can find her first. And she isn't the only one looking

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published March 3, 2015

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Mary McCoy

4 books212 followers
Mary McCoy is a librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library. She has also been a contributor to On Bunker Hill and the 1947project, where she wrote stories about Los Angeles's notorious past. She grew up in western Pennsylvania and studied at Rhodes College and the University of Wisconsin. Mary now lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
217 (24%)
4 stars
286 (32%)
3 stars
275 (31%)
2 stars
68 (7%)
1 star
24 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 215 reviews
Profile Image for Mary McCoy.
Author 4 books212 followers
November 17, 2015
Having a little distance on this book, I think I can now review it objectively despite being the person who wrote it.

I did some cool things with both gender and genre. I love how the relationship between the sisters turned out. The plotting is tight. There's this scene between approximately pgs. 215-230 that is excellent. And I totally nailed the last line.

There are also some things I could have done better.

I might have written a more complex Big Bad. I wish I'd gone emotionally deeper with the main character, but also with a few others. I wish I'd worked the ciphers into the story a bit more. I sure as hell wish I hadn't given both sisters names that started with the letter A. So confusing.

I write this not in a pat-me-on-the-back-reassure-me-I'm-great kind of way. It's just how I feel about it.

This book is an artifact of the person I was and the kind of writer I was in 2013, and that's interesting, especially because in some ways, I'm a very different person and writer now.

I hope that I never write a book that I feel compelled to give 5 stars. I hope I'm always finding things I could do better. I hope my best work is always ahead of me.
Profile Image for Lynx.
198 reviews78 followers
March 24, 2017
When Alice's older sister Annie is found severely beaten and in a coma she makes it her mission to find out what happened no matter what the price, even when the clues reveal unsettling secrets about her family.

This was a real struggle to get through. The characters are one dimentional and extremely cliched, and one of the main selling points for me, the Old Hollywood backdrop, it completely under utilized. You also know pretty much right away who the "villain" is so it took away a lot of the excitement I get out of mysteries in the first place. But this is a YA novel, and maybe a good introduction to noir for younger readers. I'd call this noir-lite. Those who love mystery and intrigue, look elsewhere.
Profile Image for Rachel  (APCB Reviews).
331 reviews1,191 followers
November 6, 2015
Initial thoughts: I'm a bit conflicted on this one. The plot was brilliant, yet the story was boring in places. I got a bit confused sometimes. The characters were flat. A great mystery/thriller in an awesome setting and time period though!

I've always felt a pull towards books about Hollywood. I love the glitz and glam and gossip. There are always secrets to be discovered, drama to be seen, and crimes and mysteries to be solved. This book portrays the Hollywood scene of the 1940's and entwines it with a gutsy mystery and crime that was brilliantly executed (the storyline, not the bad deeds themselves!).

As far as mysteries and plots go, Mary should win a gold crown or something. The story she weaves and the mystery she creates were well-planned and mind-blowing! I really loved how Mary chose the perfect setting and time period for this crime. I also loved her portrayal of Hollywood in the late 1940's and appreciated how accurate and realistic it was. I was thoroughly impressed by how slippery and deep this mystery went. This is no silly crime, things get rough and dangerous. I spent so much time wracking my brain, theorizing, trying to figure out what was really going on and why. Basically you can trust no one. Many gold stars to Mary though, she managed to pull the rug out from under my feet multiple times. She slammed twist after twist into the pages and left me a frazzled mess. Mary made this book so suspenseful, my anxiety levels were through the roof. You can cut the tension with a knife. Dead to Me is an exemplary mystery novel. There's plenty of sleuthing, shady dealings, blood, sweat, and tears.

In terms of characters, they all fell a bit short to me. I couldn't really connect with any of the characters. I didn't feel I knew much about the main character, Alice. I couldn't relate to her, I didn't know her at all. The supporting characters were just as flat. Maybe it was on purpose though. I suspected everyone, and I suspected no one. Some of the characters just slip right by you. There are quite a few revelations we discover about each of these characters, so eventually we learn who they really are. I loved the strong sisterly bond between Alice and Annie. I also really enjoyed their love of games and codes. They loved cracking codes, and it plays a super important (and super cool) part in the book.

If you're in the mood for a convoluted mystery and thriller then be sure to check out this book!
Profile Image for shushan.
95 reviews
July 4, 2016
In Dead To Me, a 16-year-old girl named Alice finds her sister Annie, who ran from home four years ago, in a hospital. Annie is still alive, but she's beat up so bad that she looks like she could die any second. Alive decides to risk her life to discover who did this and finds out some shocking things along the way that she never would've guessed before.

Dead To Me is definitely not in my top ten favorite books, but I still enjoyed uncovering all the dirty secrets with Alice.

There were a lot of things that McCoy could've done to make this more engaging for readers. For one, she could've made it clearer who's on who's side. I often for confused about that as I was reading. Especially towards the end.

I totally thought this would be better than it actually turns out to be. I'm kind of disappointed.
Profile Image for kate.
1,107 reviews921 followers
March 7, 2016
3.5/5* Dead to Me is a fast paced, intriguing mystery. The characters in Dead to Me were really interesting. I didn't really warm to any of them but in a good way, as they all had their faults and were hard to trust. Plus, there were plenty of shady characters.
At times the growing list of different names and characters was a little confusing and slightly hard to follow, which I felt, at points, took away from the plot as I was focusing on trying to remember who was who rather than what was happening. It was refreshing to read something focused on family relationships, rather than a romantic relationship. I liked that it was set in 1940's Hollywood although it would have been lovely to have seen more building of the scene and time period.
Profile Image for Jen Ryland.
1,449 reviews897 followers
February 28, 2015
Classic noir -- think Chinatown or LA Confidential -- meets YA as good girl Alice tries to solve the mystery of how her wayward older sister ended up beaten and unconscious in the hospital.

Noir is all about the dark, seedy underside of things, and I do love me some moral ambiguity, but perhaps because this was YA, this felt a little less dark than most noir I've read or watched. There was one character (Jerry) who was intriguingly hard to pin down, but some of the others felt a bit typecast: the plucky heroine, the loyal best friend, the sleazy, womanizing villain, the brassy bad girl with the heart of gold, etc. I also wished we'd been able to get to know older sister Annie a bit more, because she was a more interesting character to me than Alice. While I liked the the voiceover quality of the narration, in a book it can result in a bit of a tell-not-show feel. Then again, that's pretty much the noir style: the world-weary detective tells you a story about how one day this dame walked into his office....

On the plus side, it's a nice girl power story with zero romance, some good action scenes and some really nice plot twists. It's also something completely different from the typical YA fantasy/historical fiction/contemporary. If you're in need of something fresh and unique, give it a try!
Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews713 followers
March 13, 2015
Dead to Me is a book as pretty as its cover (although I really shouldn’t be using the word pretty).

As someone who has always been a noir mystery fan, I had a lot of fun reading this book and thought it was the perfect brain candy! It might not have been as noir as it could have been but it was still noir enough to satisfy me and keep me on the edge of my seat, flipping through the pages and trying to figure out what exactly was at play here.

Before I talk about all the good stuff, I wanted to talk a little about the setting of the novel. Dead To Me is set in the late 1940’s. There is so much that could have been done with that and even in the blurb, 'the golden Hollywood age' is mentioned, but the potential for this wasn't realized, at least I never felt it was. Their are so many things specific to that time period but they weren't as played up as they could have been. If it weren’t for little things here and there, I would have had no idea that this book was set almost 60 years in the past. I am not saying that the author doesn't go into incredibly awesome details regarding Hollywood and all the secrets that come with it but the problem is that I never felt as though it was enough and I wanted more than just Hollywood in that time period.

My issues regarding the setting aside, Alice was fantastic female lead. Her determination, her need to find out what actually happened, kept me turning the pages. It’s hard to not want to know how this all turns out. Where is everything going? Every corner Alice looks in, some deep hidden secret comes crawling out and she is forced to question the world as she knows it. She is so determined and while it did seem a tad unrealistic that this young girl managed to do all of these things all on her own, I decided to roll with it for the sake of the story. Alice was so believable as a female lead because not all of her decisions were on point but she did manage to make a lot of smart decisions over the course of the book. The way she solved the mystery and put together the puzzle pieces made sense to me as a reader. She is not a perfect character but she isn't that imperfectly perfect kind of character either. She makes mistakes that will make you shake your head but she also makes other decisions that make you want to high five her.

There is an entire entourage of secondary character who are all as interestingly developed as Alice and I liked getting to know them. One of the things McCoy did very well was making sure none of the characters were flat. Bad guys aside, the secondary characters walked a thin line between black and white. They all had their faults and it just made them so much more interesting to read about.
It added to this idea of black vs. white in the story because there are so many lines being crossed that you no longer know what is more shocking. Is it okay for someone to do something terrible because it was a choice between their lives and the thing they were being asked to do?

This book is incredibly atmospheric and McCoy does a great job in building the deceit, lies and the secrets. It’s a book that is well plotted. Nothing about it screams predictable and yet you won’t find yourself being surprised. I make it sound like a bad thing but it isn’t. It works incredibly well for this book and adds in a realistic layer. If there had been more red herrings and more ‘surprises’, I know it would have been harder for me to take this book seriously but as it is, my eyes were glued to the pages.

One of the best parts of this book is that there was no romance, there was a moment or two that made me question if the author would decide to throw one in but there were wayyyyy too many other things on Alice’s mind to think about any boys in any sort of way. She is being beaten up by bad guys, she is chasing bad guys! None of this actually leaves room for some ladi-da romance. SERIOUS STUFF IS GOING DOWN.

What made this book so fantastic was the way the author wrapped everything up. The book really picked up pace toward the end and I was so worried about how the author would resolve everything. I was worried she would decide to give this mystery a clean cut ending but that isn't what happened. Not everything is perfect in the real world and the book didn’t end on a ‘everything is solved and we can go back to our normal life now’ note. It was more realistic than that and it did justice to the book.

This is a fun noir mystery and while it may not be perfect, I definitely enjoyed reading it and would definitely recommend it to noir mystery fans or anything just looking for something exciting to pick up!
Profile Image for Heather Petty.
Author 5 books192 followers
August 7, 2014
I'm just going to start my thoughts with a description of the book:


Note how all of those words are my favorites and then add crazy amazing characters, story, writing... This book is all the things. But my favorite part is how effortlessly Ms. McCoy makes you constantly question everything. From the first page to the last, you pretty much trust nothing and no one. Every hero is irrevocably flawed, every twist unexpected, and there are no easy answers or perfectly tied bows. And still--STILL it is and fun, fast read that will keep your mind spinning long after you are done.

This is exactly my kind of book. I went in with super high expectations, and she exceeded them. So amazing. Stalk your bookstores in March until this book is there for you to purchase. You can thank me later.
Profile Image for Larissa.
239 reviews42 followers
March 6, 2015
more like 3.5
see this review at YA Midnight Reads

This one was calling my name everybody. Historical fiction? Film noir? Murder? The Golden Age of Hollywood? Sign me up.

The Film noir aspect of Dead to Me was certainly not disappointing. Shady side characters you can never trust, ambiguous morals, murder, corruption everywhere, private investigators, femme fatales were all placed within the jungle of an urban city. It felt like the perfect remembrance to Film noir, even encompassing that hard to truly describe tone. However, with the usage of a teenage narrator Mary breaths fresh air into the Film noir conventions. Furthermore, the backdrop of The Golden Age of Hollywood beautifully intersects Film noir creating such an interesting combination. One may think that the aforementioned wouldn’t have anything in common, but to that I would say that you would need to look deeper. You can take a look behind the glossy seemingly idyllic perfection perpetuated by the strict rulings of the studio system and see tiny little cracks. These are hints that there’s something more, and perhaps something sinister and highly secretive going on behind closed doors. It’s there where the dark atmosphere of Film noir and The Golden Age of Hollywood collide and I absolutely loved what McCoy did with it.

The murder mystery in Dead to Me was very well done. It kept me flipping pages late into the night, the mystery truly creates a pulse racing plot line that will keep you guessing. There’s red herrings left, right and center and you’ll be second guessing yourself every five seconds. When there was the eventual reveal of the mystery (not with whodunit, that was actually revealed fairly early on- but rather the intricacies, motivations, connections and betrayals present) I could see all of the little ties come together. Though, I didn’t except was another plot twist after the mystery was solved which continues to follow the Film noir mantra that nobody can be trusted and that there will always be a secrets and corruption abound.

I think that really speaks to how multifaceted and interesting the side characters were. Each had their distinct personality and secrets, some of which never even get revealed by the end of the story furthering their ambiguity. I would say that each side character also had their own motivations in mind, and these played out through their role in the plot. Honestly, I found some of the side characters (namely Jerry and Annie) more interesting than Alice- the main character. While Alice offered an pleasant enough narration, it felt more like she was of an observer to the antics of the side characters and the captivating plot rather than a solid character. I never really felt a deep connection with her nor did I really ever feel like she underwent any real character development. It kept me a bit emotionally distanced from Alice’s plights. In Film noir I usually don’t relate with the main character, but with the inclusion of a teenage narrator it feels like that could have been made possible. As that potential wasn’t realized it does feel like a bit of a missed opportunity.

The romance in this one…wait a minute. There was no romance in Dead to Me. I know, it’s basically impossible for there not to be romance in the genre of YA. That is why it was so refreshing to not have to deal with the main character focused on the love interest rather than the serious plot at hand. Despite there not being any romance in Dead to Me, there was some examples of familial relationships and friendships. This was likely due to my inability to truly connect with with Alice.

Despite my lack of connection the main character, I would definitely recommend Dead to Me for those looking for a captivating Film noir mystery with a old Hollywood backdrop.

March 5, 2015
Alice Gates lives a privileged and perfect life in Hollywood during the 1940s, that is until her sister leaves home and she hasn't heard from her since. Four years later, the hospital contacts her saying that her sister, Annie, is seriously injured and unconscious. Of course, Alice rushes to the hospital to find out what happened and as she receives more and more information, she pieces together the clues slowly. The clues take her to a side of Hollywood not often seen. It's a gritty side filled with violent men, drugs, desperate actors, and cops that don't do their jobs. Perhaps the more she learns about who did this to Annie, the more she will not only understand her sister, but also understand why she left all those years ago. With the help of Annie's friend, who is also a private investigator, she find herself right in the center of the dangerous side of Hollywood. Mary McCoy's debut, Dead to Me, is a captivating mystery that kept me guessing.

Read the rest of my review here:
Profile Image for summer.
248 reviews300 followers
March 9, 2015
Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars

"Ali, I need you to do one more thing for me.""Anything," I said. "Don't believe anything they say. Not about me, not about anything."

Dead To Me first caught my eye because it was a) historical fiction and b) a story of two sisters. Of course, I went in expecting an emotional historical novel about sisters who finally find each other and have a tear-stained reunion. Boy, was I wrong.

This isn't a touching story of siblings--it's noir, through and through. It's a mystery/thriller book with a complex storyline that kept me on my toes. It was intriguing and unconventional, albeit a bit puzzling at times. There were tons of twists and turns and I couldn't seem to keep up--a sign of a very well-written mystery novel. Although, it did get a bit dry, but these instances were few and far between.

Alice, the main character, was developed quite well. The same cannot be said of the majority of the characters in this book. Dead To Me's only weakness was in its character development. and I found myself mixing up the names of Annie's friends as I couldn't distinguish between their personalities. Annie herself was an extremely interesting character, and I'm sad to see that her relationship with her younger sister wasn't delved into as much as I'd hoped.

I loved the writing. It was to-the-point and really helped develop the setting of 1940s Hollywood. Indeed, nothing was sugarcoated, so don't expect a happy-go-lucky book.

The historical fiction wasn't focused on too much; just enough information and descriptions were given to help give us a feel of this time period.

Full of engaging mysteries and questionable crimes, Dead To Me was nothing short of spectacular. Its subject matter was evidently researched extensively, and while the historical fiction was not up in the reader's face, the author did succeed in subtly creating the atmosphere of 1940s LA. I truly enjoyed myself while reading Dead To Me, and it certainly has left an impact on me.

Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews545 followers
April 27, 2015
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: Such an action-packed read; filled with page-turning mysteries and family dramas.

Opening Sentence: When I saw my sister in that hospital bed, she was different from how I remembered her. She’d changed her hair. Her cheeks were leaner. And someone had tried to cave in the side of her head with a baseball bat.

The Review:

After four years of zero contact, Alice comes face to face with her older sister, Annie, only to find her broken at the hospital, fighting for her life. Since Annie’s disappearance, Alice’s life changed for the worst; she distanced from her parents and her friends and became a distrusting, skeptical girl. Deep down, she always hoped that the sister she played spy games with would return and their family would be whole again, but with Annie’s changed re-appearance, it’s clear that fantasy will never come true.

I very much enjoyed this book because despite the crazy circumstances, Alice felt so real. She’s not cut out for this mystery, it’s far too dangerous for her but she’ll do what she can to help, even if it means using her childhood detective skills to save her sister. Along the way, Alice finds pieces and people from Annie’s new life, forcing her to realise that the beautiful older sister she had has changed to someone almost unrecognisable.

I would never have gone so far as to say that our parents loved her more than me, but it was clear they considered her more promising. Where Annie was “beautiful” and “smart,” I was “cute” and “clever.” Annie was charming; I was pleasant. Annie danced ballet and tap and took voice lessons, and I backed her up on the piano. And we both went to those awful parties.

The hurt Alice feels at not being part of Annie’s new life is palpable but throughout the mystery Alice travels her own journey of self-discovery. She’s no longer the adorable little sister who used to sing at her parents’ parties.

Alice’s courage in the face of danger and the constant twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat. I doubted most of the characters’ agendas because it was clear they all had secrets. Alice didn’t know any of them well enough to trust but at the same time she had no choice but to trust them because she needed all the help she could get.

I loved that Alice was no Sherlock Holmes, she’s bumbling her way along, trying to piece clues together and making so many mistakes it would be funny if it wasn’t terrifying. Despite her flaws, it’s clear how much Alice loves her sister and that she’ll go to any lengths to make Annie proud even though she envies these broken girls who her sister cares so much for; the girls Annie chose to care for whilst leaving Alice behind.

Clearly, Annie had been wronged and I’m aware that she went through some unimaginably hard times, but I still detested her for Alice’s sake. She didn’t want Alice mixed up in her new life because of the danger it posed, but it was because of her that Alice was left so vulnerable. Annie was trying to protect Alice but she forgot that Alice needed a sister’s love more, and I guess I hated Annie for this.

“Jerry doesn’t have friends. He has a cabinet full of broken dolls like your sister. And he acts like he wants to fix them, but the truth of it is, Alice, I think he likes them broken.”

There was a sadness to this book that I find hard to explain. Annie’s reunion with her family and Alice managing to bring justice for all the girls that fell prey to Donahue should have been cause for a happy occasion but although it is a victory, it’s one that came with a lot of pain. An excellent thrilling read, with an almost Nancy Drew-like mystery, I look forward to reading more from this author.

Notable Scene:

“This was never about you, Alice.”

She said it as kindly as you could say something like that. I could tell she tried to make her voice gentle, but her words still cut me because I knew they were true. Terrible things had happened, and because of them, my big sister had disappeared. That she could have been more careful with my heart and her promises was the least important thing about it.

FTC Advisory: Disney-Hyperion/Hachette provided me with a copy of Dead to Me. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
76 reviews14 followers
March 4, 2015
Welp, thank goodness that's over. I went into Dead to Me not super psyched but hoping for a quick, atmospheric mystery, but instead got a mediocre story with characters that fell so flat I almost don't remember their names.

The first thing I noticed as I started McCoy's debut was that the setting for me was very weak. I didn't know going into it it was set in "old Hollywood," and had trouble situating myself in it throughout the story. The story itself read much more modern and didn't seem to have much to do with the time period other than a few scattered references to mystery novelists (?) that I had never heard of. The focus on the action was part of that I think, and perhaps if McCoy had stopped once in a while to give a little more description (I mean, how fun would it be to write about old Hollywood?!), that would have helped.

I also never felt any connection to the protagonist, Alice, or her sister, Annie. The first scene is when Alice finds Annie in the hospital, and I think the lack of build-up really contributed to me not caring at all what had happened to Annie. I found myself wondering why I should care about either of them or their relationship because all of the information was told to me in a way that made it basically impossible for me to actually feel it. We learn very little about Alice as a person outside of the drama with Annie, and it was almost like she was just a vessel for Annie's story rather than a true character.

Granted, I understand that this novel is meant to be a noir-style mystery, but while that style works in film and can be campy and fun as well as dark, this novel tried to be serious but failed because of extreme lack of emotional punch. In addition to long, info-dump-y passages about Alice and Annie's home life, I felt frustrated that all of the clues were fed to me in a way that left no room to figure out what was going on. It was very "here's this new character, he had this part in Annie's beating, here's this person, oh gosh, he helped!" and not particularly sophisticated or suspensefully paced.

I nearly DNF'ed this one and probably should have, but I had just abandoned Red Queen and was feeling anxious about only reading two for-fun books last month (between my new internship and my solo recital last month I've been absurdly busy), so I powered through. However, the outcome was less than satisfying due to its predictability (again, the author feeds us so much it makes it hard to even predict what's going to happen since you know she'll just spell it out), and I was left feeling certain I would forget even Alice's name because I still knew so little about her as a person. Overall, what I had hoped would be an entertaining, quick read turned out to be a tedious, over-told (but thankfully still quick due to some skimming in the last 20%) read that I probably won't remember tomorrow.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
677 reviews299 followers
March 12, 2015
So I’m not sure if it’s the writing or the fact that I knew it was suppose to have the air of a film noir, but man, did I read a lot of this book in my head as Alice doing a monologue to me/the audience, ha.

It was interesting read with an interesting premise. The story took us from the glitz of the Golden Age of Hollywood into the dark and seedy underbelly of the so-call glamorous life. When Alice’s sister, Annie who’s been missing for 4 years, turns up nearly dead and in a coma, Alice gets pulled into the detective life and the criminal world to try to discover who done it and why (it all goes back to a missing witness and murder! dun dun da). Annie’s beating was just one line of a dark and dangerous web of crimes. Alice soon find out is that things are never what they seem and you can’t trust anyone.

The mystery was suspenseful, there’s a lot of drama happening – a murder, blackmailing, kidnappings, backstabbing and shootings! It indulges in the dark side of Hollywood life and into the dysfunction family. However, despite the interesting premise, there’s patches of the book that just slowed down too much for me. The characters weren’t too bad. The bad guys are pretty terrible people and it’s hard to actually know who’s on the ‘good side’. Which actually made the characters more interesting since everyone seems to be in it for themselves, you always had to wonder about their motivates for any of their actions. The problem was a lot of the characters still just fitted into the boring typecast making them a bit predictable as soon as you knew who they were. Good news is even when I thought I had it all figured out, there’s still a few extra twist and turns to keep the ending from being too typical.

Overall, it was a enjoyable young adult meets film-noir-esque read that gave us a glimpse into the deadly lifestyle of the rich and famous.

{*Thank to Disney Hyperion & Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for the an honest review. Original review at Bookmunchies

Profile Image for Tanner.
87 reviews
July 2, 2016
Really, I wish I could have loved it, but, no.
349 reviews172 followers
March 4, 2015
Enter here to win a hardcopy of Dead To Me!

Dead To Me begins with the Gates sisters in the hospital. They’re both together now, after having been apart for four years.

Except, Annie Gates is barely alive, almost comatose, as she lies on the hospital bed, with no one but her younger sister Alice Gates beside her. And Alice, though relieved at her sister’s presence in her life after four long years, is afraid but ready to know who put her sister in this state.

And there starts her journey, where she navigates Hollywood and its web of lies, deceit and betrayal to bring justice to her sister.

Or is it really her sister who needs to be brought justice?

In keeping with the blurb, Dead to Me definitely has the dark, edgy vibe that noir novels have; add that to the Golden Age of Hollywood, and you’ve gotten yourself a total hit. As far as mystery novels go, this book was amazingly good. You think you know who the culprit is, at 60 pages in, but you really, really don’t. Would it be really cliché if I said that this book kept me guessing and guessing and guessing until the very end?

Pfft, whatever. Because it totally did.

Alice was completely my type of protagonist. She was brave and smart, but she was also young and inexperienced. Unfortunate for her, let me tell you, but it made for excellent reading and kept me hooked until the very end. I found myself growing more and more fond of this little rebel, who was trying so hard to be everyone’s favorite and keep everyone happy. In spite of this, I was very sympathetic to her plight (which is rare, for me) and I constantly found myself rooting for her and wanting her to get out of every situation unscathed.

And believe you me, readers, there were a lot of situations. Alice struck me as the kind of person whom trouble finds and so—lots of trouble. But she came out of them (mostly) victorious and (frequently) unscathed, so yay!

Something else I appreciated? The “Who run the world? Girls Girls!” theme that this book had. I loved that! I loved that little Alice, who was expected to imitate her older sister and be all prim and proper and something she was not, matured in the course of this book to become a person of her own. Sure there were a lot of shitty stuffs that happened along the way but woah, if it didn’t make me clutch my Kindle that much tighter!

I had my issues with the book too. For starters, I really liked Annie and I would have loved to see more of her. Of course, a lot of information about what she’d been up to all this time had been given, but I’d have liked to see what she was like with Alice right then!

Now that I think about it, I’d like to have seen why exactly she left. I got the gist of it but with so many theories floating around it would’ve been great--coming from Annie herself--to know her motivations for leaving.

Secondly, the end of the novel. A bit too anticlimactic, considering it was set up fantastically, but I’ll deal because of the writing.

And oh yes, the writing. Mary McCoy has done an amazing job with Dead To Me. She got the who 1940s Hollywood vibe pat down and she did an excellent job of keeping me intrigued…and as a reader who knows close to nothing about the era, it was fascinating to learn about it, while also feeling like I’d been in that era forever.

Definite, definite recommendation, y'all :)

*I was provided a free ecopy of this book in exchange of an honest review. This did not in any way, however, influence the content of this review.*
Profile Image for Peach.
97 reviews104 followers
October 18, 2015

Apparently, I never completed my review of this. I only blurbed it. Shame, I thought it was fantastic.

The year is 1948. Los Angeles is a place of glitz and glamour. But after Annie is beaten into a coma, Annie's only known relative is her estranged, younger sister, Alice. And after Annie had walked out on their family years prior, Alice hadn't received word from her since, and upon looking at her sister's broken, battered frame, she can only wonder who would ever commit such a dastardly act.

Jerry Shaffer, Annie's co-partner, is on the case. Alice decides to join him to see what her sister was up to while she was away. They traverse the city and Jerry introduces Alice to quite a few shady characters as they search for the culprit. Though Alice was an interesting MC, she was a bit boring. She reminded me of Nick from The Great Gatsby, someone who belonged on the sidelines. The side-characters were truly more eccentric.

I hadn't had an actual problem with this novel. Though Annie and Alice shared an unconventional sisterly relationship, Alice saw her sister with such light. But after Like, really, girl? Uncool.

Otherwise, I love very much of Dead to Me. It's a phenomenal historical YA, absolutely brimming with suspense, and one hell of a page-turner. Check it out!
Profile Image for Maria Angelica.
365 reviews345 followers
June 6, 2016
Em nenhum momento eu senti um verdadeiro suspense e a autora revelou os segredos do livro cedo demais. Por esta razão acabei lendo as últimas 100 páginas por cima, só para saber como iria terminar. Esse tipo de livro tem que fazer a gente ficar tenso e querer adivinhar o mistério, mas ela entrega tudo de mão beijada.
Queria também ter visto mais do clima anos 40, mas a autora tem uma escrita muito direta e quase não faz uso de metáforas e descrições mais floreadas.
O livro é extremamente focado no conflito principal e não diverge muito desse rumo, o que o torna superficial em desenvolvimento de personagem. Para que isso não me incomode, o autor tem que criar um enredo com muita ação e suspense, algo que infelizmente ela não conseguiu atingir aqui.
Profile Image for Imillar.
39 reviews3 followers
October 7, 2015
This book is the YA answer to LA Confidential. Smart, gritty, and with a 1940's Hollywood setting that I've never seen for this age group before. Our heroine Alice on the trail of the person who put her sister in a coma, and she reluctantly enlists the help of a private detective. You never know who to trust in a noir, and the same's true here, which makes for some very exciting chase scenes, shoot-outs and close calls. I'm really hoping this becomes a series, because I would love to read more about this character.
Author 4 books412 followers
September 23, 2014
THIS BOOK!!! Wow...it's brilliant. I am a huge mystery lover, but the genre often comes with a heavy side of cheese. DEAD TO ME was a *perfect* noir mystery with excellent twists, incredible characterization, and a revealing look at the ugly side of 1940s Hollywood.

This is going on my MUST HAVE FOREVER shelf. It's that good.
Profile Image for Melliott.
1,410 reviews80 followers
August 23, 2014
Oh, this was a good one! It's going to be published as a YA novel, but honestly, it just reads like a good noir mystery whose protagonist happens to be 16. I liked all the detail with which it was filled, her characters were as interesting as they were diverse, and the mystery was good.
Profile Image for Jen (Pop! Goes The Reader).
109 reviews669 followers
March 6, 2015
Did you find this review helpful? Find more of my reviews at Pop! Goes The Reader!

When I saw my sister in that hospital bed, she was different from how I remembered her. She’d changed her hair. Her cheeks were leaner.
And someone had tried to cave in the side of her head with a baseball bat.

Los Angeles. 1948. The doctors tell sixteen-year-old Alice Gates that Annie was lucky. That things could have been much, much worse. But as Alice stares down at the broken body of the once-beloved, now-estranged sister she hasn’t spoken to in four years, at her broken back, her fractured skull, and her currently comatose state, twenty-year-old Annie seems anything but. Virtual strangers ever since Annie walked out on the Gates family in a cloud of secrecy and scandal, Alice has little more than the help of Jerry Shaffer, a bumbling, if well-meaning, private detective and one of Annie’s old associates, to guide her as she searches for the truth behind her sister’s attack. As she wades into the murky waters of Old Hollywood where nothing, and no-one, are quite what they appear to be, Alice will need all of her wit and courage in order to navigate an endless array of dirty cops, lost innocents, notorious starlets, hard-boiled detectives and cold-blooded murderers in a world where the most gilded of lilies disguises the most rotten of roots.

Once, I asked her why she wouldn’t look at me, why she wouldn’t talk to me. All she said was “Alice, when I get home from those things, I just wish I was invisible, so I pretend that I am.”
So, I let her be invisible. It didn’t seem like much to ask. If I’d known she would develop a taste for it, that one day she’d disappear altogether, maybe I would have done something else. Maybe I would have tried harder to stop her.

Dead To Me is historical fiction done right. I’ll admit that, initially, I was skeptical. Scared, even. Having been reared on movies like The Maltese Falcon and Murder, My Sweet as an adolescent, film noir is a subject that has always been near and dear to my heart. It was from these films that a passion for 1940’s cinema and history were born, a fascination that still persists to this day. That said, I needn’t have worried. Dead To Me provides a vivid glimpse into a bygone era, with a thrilling, action-packed mystery, morally ambiguous characters and a brave, enterprising heroine. Haunting and evocative with a powerful emotional undercurrent throughout, Dead To Me is the first in what promises to be an extensive and successful career for phenomenally talented debut novelist, Mary McCoy. Readers are guaranteed to flip their lids over this taut, action-packed thriller set against one of the most glamorous, salacious and corrupt periods in America’s history.

Every morning when I walked to school, I told myself, You are Philip Marlowe. You are Sam Spade. You are ice, you are stone, and nothing can touch you.
If you tell yourself something like that enough, you begin to believe it, but that’s a problem, too.
Better watch out or your face will freeze that way.

Unlike Veronica Mars, to which this novel has so regularly been compared, Alice Gates is entirely unfamiliar with the investigatory lifestyle prior to Annie’s attack. The daughter of a minor, aging starlet and the head of publicity at Insignia Pictures, her life is that of an average, if privileged, teenager. With no-one to turn to and no-one to trust, however, Alice is forced to explore the circumstances surrounding her sister’s attack purely out of necessity and in doing so is capable and enterprising without ever straining credibility. McCoy strikes this familiar balance in every aspect of Alice’s personality. She is cynical without being alienating, prickly without being inaccessible, insightful without being pretentious, self-depracating without being dreary. In fact, it is often these very imperfections that make her all the more refreshing and captivating. Alice does not always do the ‘right’ thing. She can be cruel. She can be selfish. She makes mistakes. She trusts the wrong people. And that’s okay. As in life, sometimes there are no right choices or wrong choices but just a series of decisions that are neither straightforward nor easy to make. Much like the films on which this novel was patterned, McCoy creates a world painted in complicated shades of grey, asking some tough choices of her characters, and of society as a whole, in the process.

I used to dream about disappearing and leaving a mark on someone like the one Annie had left on me.
But Annie left her marks in different ways. She loved people; she took care of them. The only marks I left on people were the kind they regretted.

Of equal importance in the narrative is Alice’s elder sister, Annie Gates. Much to my pleasant surprise, Annie is just as well-developed as her sister, a fact that is all the more laudable given the character’s passivity and/or absence throughout the majority of the novel. Much of the information the reader gleans about Annie is derived second-hand through the use of flashbacks and Alice’s recollections but, quite remarkably, there is no ambivalence or ambiguity as to the nature of Annie’s character. This is undoubtedly a testament to the clarity and vision of the author, who accomplishes in a few sparse lines of dialogue and gestures what other authors are unable to accomplish with the breadth of an entire novel at their disposal. Having left the Gates home after a devastating incident for which her parents offered her no consolation or support, Annie was forced to leave behind the life of wealth and privilege she once knew and take a number of odd, part-time jobs in order to support herself. It is by no means an easy existence and is made all the more difficult when Annie unknowingly becomes embroiled in a murder mystery that will threaten her life and the lives of everyone she holds dear. Thankfully, McCoy’s attention to detail and character development does not begin and end here; Dead To Me's remaining cast of secondary characters are equally compelling. From the hard-boiled detective to the enigmatic femme fatale, the handsome, arrogant movie star to the simpering, obsequious hangers-on, McCoy touches upon a number of archetypes synonymous with the genre without ever succumbing to the clichés associated with the same.

For years, I’d been lied to about the biggest, most important thing in my life. And at that moment, the idea of being careful, of telling a watered-down version of the truth, felt uglier to me than a lie.

The allure of McCoy’s chosen setting extends far beyond its novelty. From a booth at Musso & Frank to the seedy squalor of The Stratford Arms apartments, Dead To Me is an evocative and atmospheric dedication to an era long since passed but that continues to loom large in our collective memory. The author’s rendering of the period is delicate and understated, creating the ideal context to allow the ensuing events to occur without ever dominating the focus of the novel. In addition to its vivid setting, puzzle enthusiasts will delight in and be challenged by the codes and ciphers littered throughout the text. These ciphers are a significant aspect of Alice and Annie’s relationship and also play a crucial role in the resolution of the mystery that underscores the entire text, allowing the reader to feel as though they are active participants in its conclusion.

Some secrets are too big to bury, some things can’t be hidden, but a girl is just about the right size.

Move over Sam Spade – There’s a new detective in town! Set against the seductive, salacious and often unscrupulous backdrop of 1940’s Old Hollywood, Dead To Me is a credit to the young adult market, the historical fiction genre, and the noir films on which it was undoubtedly based. Author Mary McCoy’s debut is intelligent, thrilling and undeniably evocative with a bold, courageous heroine and a mystery that will have readers on the edge of their seats until the very last word. And if you’re ever looking for someone to enthuse about this novel with, you know where to find me. In fact, you can just whistle. You know how to whistle, don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow.

Please Note: All quotations included in this review have been taken from an advanced reader copy and therefore might be subject to change.
Profile Image for Stephanie Ward.
1,176 reviews116 followers
March 23, 2015
4.5 Stars

'Dead to Me' is a gripping young adult historical mystery/thriller based in Hollywood during the late 1940s. The story revolves around our main character, Alice, as she digs into her sister's life for the past four years - since she left home without a trace. Now, Annie is in a coma and fighting for her life after being nearly beat to death one night. The hospital called Alice after finding her picture and phone number in Annie's shoe, and Alice can't believe that she's found her sister after all these years - and is more determined than ever to find out the truth of why Annie left home and never reached out to her. Alice also knows that her parents are lying to her about something big - and she has a hunch that it has to do with Annie and why she left. She's not about to lose her big sister again, so Alice feels it's up to her to find out what Annie's being doing since she left and who could want her dead? She'll have to go through the shady underbelly of Hollywood - with all of the dirty and nasty secrets that are hidden there - in order to save her sister and to answer the questions that have burdened her for years. What she finds will shock her to the core and she'll have to rethink everything she thought she knew about Hollywood, the so-called glamorous life of actors, and even her own life.

I love a good mystery or thriller and never pass up a chance to read one that sounds promising. I'm usually complaining that the YA genre doesn't have enough good thrillers out there, which I'm happy to say is starting to change, and this novel can definitely be added to that list. The plot of the book really isn't anything terribly original - a teen girl runs away from home after a big fight with her parents and isn't heard from again - until she turns up in a hospital, leaving nothing but more questions. The fact that the story is set in Hollywood during the late 1940s makes it much more fascinating. A lot goes on during the story, especially as Alice digs through her sister's past to figure out what happened to her. There are tons of smaller stories that are brought up during this time in the book - and all of them somehow tie in together to create the backbone of the central plot. These smaller story lines are detailed and intricate, which I feel only adds depth to the book as a whole. It's like a puzzle - all of these smaller stories and characters that Alice discovers are the pieces, and when put together in the right way, they show the entire picture of what happened to Annie and why.

I always try to figure out the mystery in the book before the main character does, but I wasn't really able to pin it down with this one. I kept building up theories in my mind, only to have a big twist in the story knock me back to where I started. When I can't figure out a mystery of any sort before the character, I consider it a strong indication of the writer's talent and ability. I loved the author's writing style throughout the book - all of the various elements were each done precisely and in great detail. After putting all of the different parts of the story together, the big picture behind it all is revealed in striking detail. When I found out that this is the author's debut novel, I could hardly believe it. The book is written with the skill and grace of a seasoned author and showcases the incredible talent the writer possesses. Part of the reason I loved the writing so much was the author's use of first person point of view - that of Alice. By using this technique, the reader gets a much deeper and intimate understanding of what happens during the book, sometimes actually feeling as if we've been transported to that specific place and time. With this novel, I felt as if I had stepped back in time and was experiencing the glamorous Hollywood of the 1940s, as well as the dirty underside that is kept hidden from the world. We experience everything as Alice does and are privy to her personal thoughts, fears, dreams, hopes, and emotions - among several other things. This style also allows the reader to connect with the character in a whole new level than would be possible using a different technique. The reader is almost immediately connected to Alice and can easily identify with her from the start of the book. I love being inside the main character's mind during a story - experiencing everything from their standpoint. Emotions, inner thoughts and dialogues, and other sensory information is vividly detailed and described from the character's viewpoint - which makes the reader feel as if they are inside the story itself and experiencing everything that happens alongside the character. This is a huge benefit of using first person point of view, in my opinion, and I believe it makes a book and it's characters all the more realistic.

Each part of the story - from the setting and scenery to the secondary characters and the events that unfold - is described in fantastic detail with lots of description and vivid imagery. It feels so realistic that the reader will get lost inside the pages, forgetting about the outside world, until they have finished the book - which is another sign for me that an author has true talent. Overall, I found this novel to be an exceptionally well written story with an imaginative plot and a mystery full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end. I very highly recommend this book to fans of mysteries, suspense, and thrillers - along with those looking for magnificent writing and a twisting narrative that will have you reading as fast as you can to find out the truth and who's behind it all. I'll most definitely be following this author and eagerly awaiting her next release!

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kelly.
192 reviews11 followers
December 11, 2022
I really enjoyed this. It was fast paced and gripping. I didn't want to put it down once I got into it. I did, however, find it hard to remember who some essential characters were. That was frustrated. But the main character, Alice, was really well written and realistic. I'd love to know more about her, her sister Annie, and her friend Cassie.
January 10, 2019
I enjoyed the book there where many things going on and there was a strong female lead to top it all off.
Profile Image for Trista.
585 reviews37 followers
July 4, 2015
Annie and Alice grew up in Hollywood. Their parents never really made it but were considered insiders, going to plenty of parties and putting their daughter on display when they hosted their own. Fed up with it all, Annie leaves. Alice doesn't hear from her in years. Until one day she gets a call saying Annie's in the hospital. She's been badly beaten and is in a coma. Alice's isn't the child Annie left behind anymore and she's determined to find out who did this to her sister. Even if that means exposing a huge star in Hollywood and putting her own life in danger.

I am a huge fan of the era of Hollywood when this book was set, along with being a huge fan of film noir, and this book definitely had that feel to it. There were a lot of twists and it was fun to try to keep up with them all as I read.

Alice was a great character. I loved her determination and her fearlessness. She was going to find out who hurt her sister and she was going to expose them. She found herself getting into all sorts of situations and she faced them, even when she knew it would likely put her in danger. She was very Nancy Drew-esque, another character I love. She wasn't perfect in her investigating, she made mistakes, but also made smart observations and the way she put everything together made sense. She was the only character who got a lot of development, which was a little disappointing, but the story was pushed along by the mystery and by Alice, so it made sense.

Just because there wasn't a lot of development in the secondary characters didn't mean they were flat, which I appreciated. Mary McCoy did a great job in making even the most likeable of them seem suspicious at times. There was definitely a 'I like this character but can I really trust him/her?' feel through the whole book. They were hard to get a read on, and I loved it all.

The book had a lot of action in a short time. From the moment Alice decided to investigate Annie's attack, it seemed like there was something happening to push the mystery forward. Everything she did, everyone she met, had the potential to be or to give an important clue. It made for a read that I didn't want to put down because I wanted to see if I could figure out the mystery and if Alice would get out of each situation. It was fun, tense, and I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Anna Kay.
1,317 reviews151 followers
August 19, 2014
A bit of a change of pace from my normal reading, what with the noir and all. Not my usual, but I do enjoy a noir mystery film from time to time - I even took a Film Noir class in college. Would you believe that some of it actually stuck? That said, this is also set during what could be conceivably called the Golden Age of Hollywood, when there were so many stars and great films it's almost unreal. Add into that particular time period an average teenaged girl, with a father who is a promoter in the film business and whose sister left home years ago without a backwards glance. The girl, Alice, is startled to receive a call from the hospital that her sister Annie has been found almost beaten to death and they need her to come up there. When she meets a private eye in the hospital room, who claims to be Annie's friend, things spiral completely out of control. It becomes a game of cat and mouse, with the very real danger of death just around the corner. Is this a mystery that Alice can survive?

I appreciated that it's pretty clear whodunnit, and that's not where the mystery lies. The mystery of the story is the motivations, the connections and the how of the situation! There is a lot of action and I was always on the edge of my seat. No character was truly safe and the psycopathic movie star described in the book summary was truly terrifying once he became a major player in the novel. The reasons were not quite what I was expecting, but with the sleazy side of 1940s Hollywood being what it was, it wasn't entirely surprising in and of itself. Mostly, the bits and pieces of this one - story, plotting, characters, etc. - came together to form an entirely pleasant reading experience and genuinely intriguing mystery. This is an author I will definitely be watching in the future. Please excuse the vagueness of this review, as I'm trying to avoid spoilers due to the March 2015 release date!!!

VERDICT: 4/5 Stars

**I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is March 3rd, 2015.**
Profile Image for Once.
2,344 reviews69 followers
March 7, 2015
Let me paint the scene for you...Old Hollywood, scandals, private detectives, parties, missing girls...it has it all!! There are so many things that I loved about this book! It's been awhile that I've read a story where I couldn't put it down. Not in the car, or at work, or even to go to bed! And isn't the cover amazing? I love the way the girl is peaking through the title.

I love the backstory that McCoy weaves through the story. It really gives you a better understanding of the time period and setting. The girls behave exactly the way I would picture them to back in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Alice is from a some-what high society family, but has a mind of her own and isn't dazzled by her families crazy lifestyle. I'm glad that she was a strong character from the beginning and continued to be herself throughout the novel. There wasn't a time where I felt that she was weak or couldn't handle the situation. She was rebellious, and I liked that.

The plot line had me questioning everything and trying to put the pieces together. I couldn't figure out who put Annie in the hospital. You didn't know who you could trust or who was a bad guy (or girl). There were times where I just kept reading and reading because I had to finish the chapter and then I'd get sucked into the next one. The drama and pacing were right on and I liked how there were flashbacks into the girls' childhoods because it gave you reasons for why they did what they did.

Overall, I really loved this story. The setting was fun and the plot had me interested throughout the story. I promise you will love the ending, but that's all I'm going to say! No spoilers here!! I would recommend this book to middle and high schoolers because it was a great historical fiction set in a time and place that would peak their interest.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13k reviews267 followers
April 10, 2015
Sophomore Alice Gates hasn't seen or heard from her beloved older sister Annie for four years. When Annie is beaten badly and lands in an LA hospital, the authorities contact Alice. Alice decides to unravel the circumstances that led to her sister now being in a coma. As she does so, she isn't certain who she can trust, and some of the unsavory information she unearths casts part of the blame on her father. Teen readers will relish all the twists and turns of this well-written detective story set in Hollywood in 1948. I couldn't stop turning the pages to see what would happen next. It's clear from the opening pages that something is wrong with the Gates family, but exactly what that might be is not so clear. Not only are the descriptions of the seedier side of the city and the motion picture industry fascinating, perfectly capturing that particular period when even law enforcement officials couldn't be trusted, but Alice's ruminations on her family dynamics and how she has walled herself off from everyone add depth to this intriguing examination of misplaced power, fame, and priorities.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 215 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.