Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Dead Dead Girls

I’m delighted in be sharing about a new “own voices” historical mystery novel written by a young black female debut author and set during the Harlem Renaissance. DEAD DEAD GIRLS (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; June 1, 2021) by Nekesa Afia is the first book in a new series starring a well-rounded black female protagonist that tackles issues of race, sexuality and gender from the viewpoint of 1920’s New York City in a way that is still relevant today.

A twenty-four-year-old recent graduate, Nekesa introduces modern readers to Louise Lloyd, a black, gay, female amateur sleuth trying to make a living in 1920’s New York City while solving crimes. Not only does Louise go toe-to-toe with ruthless killers, but she also navigates a society hostile towards her based on who she is.

Harlem, 1926. Young black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead.

Louise Lloyd is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She's succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie's Café and her nights at the Zodiac, Manhattan's hottest speakeasy. Louise's friends might say she's running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don't tell her that.

When a girl turns up dead in front of the café, Louise is forced to confront something she's been trying to ignore--several local black girls have been murdered over the past few weeks. After Louise's night job gets her arrested, she's given an ultimatum: She can either help solve the case or let a judge make an example of her. Fearing for her and her sister's safety, she takes the case.

She soon finds herself toe-to-toe with a mastermind. She must push herself past the limits of her fears and the prejudices of New York City society if she wants to catch a killer.

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Nekesa as she joins us to answer some questions about her new book and her writing. Welcome, Nekesa.

How would you describe DEAD DEAD GIRLS?


DEAD DEAD GIRLS is a novel of triumph, as my main character, Louise Lloyd, defies the Prohibition-era social norms set on her as she solves a string of gruesome murders in her neighborhood.

DEAD DEAD GIRLS is set during the Harlem Renaissance and stars a black, female amateur sleuth on the case to stop a murderer who is targeting young Black women. What inspired this idea?


The crime was inspired by the 1800s London murderer Jack the Ripper. I was taking a history course where we discussed what life was like during the time of the murders and I was really taken with them. The setting and the characters all came organically as I did my research.

Your protagonist, Louise Lloyd, is courageous, headstrong, and outspoken. What do you think is special about a main character like her? Who inspired her? 


I think what’s special about Louise is that she is allowed to make mistakes, be wrong, and stand up for what is right. She’s an individual, and I hope she inspires readers. For inspiration, I looked towards the fierce women in my family. Louise has spirit, drive, and moxie, and that is a character I am proud to write.

What do you hope readers take away from reading DEAD DEAD GIRLS?


I hope that readers take away a different view of the 1920s. It wasn’t all Gatsby parties and dancing in the street. It was post World War One, there was a generation of disillusioned young adults, and racism was rampant. I hope to clear some of the rose-colored glasses. I also hope that readers are inspired by Louise’s story to be brave in their own worlds.

Nekesa, thanks for joining us today and sharing this insight into your book. Now Nekesa is sharing an excerpt from the book for your reading please.

“Lovie,” the bartender, Rafael Moreno, greeted her. He leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Everything copacetic, baby doll?”

Louise smiled and pulled her hair from her lipstick, her pulse slowing. “Everything’s jake, babe.”

“A drink?”

“And how.” She leaned over the bar and pulled her purse out. Rafael kept watch over it while she danced. It was the major benefit to being best friends with the bartender. She pulled out a cigarette, lit it, then checked her makeup in her compact mirror. Her lipstick had smeared, and she began to reapply it.

“Gin, Lovie?” Rafael asked. Rafael Moreno was many things, devastatingly handsome for one: his dark hair was always neatly parted, his brown skin perfectly sun-kissed, his eyes dark and beautiful. He had the unique ability to make a girl weak at the knees with his one-dimpled smile. Rafael had been there the first time Louise had walked into the Zodiac, and he’d remained a constant ever since. The moment he had found out her middle name was Lovie was the moment he started using it and nothing else for her.

“Yes, please.” Louise winked. It was their own little nightly dance. He placed a glass in front of her and began to pour. Her attention drifted to the dance floor, where the couples were swaying romantically.

“How’s my sister?” Rafael asked. Rosa Maria was Rafael’s twin sister, older by about three minutes. Louise could never see real similarities between the two.

“Never better.” Louise drained half her gin and placed her glass on the bar. She passed the dizzy state she liked to stay in and was officially drunk. Rafael was watching his sister on the floor, lips slightly pursed. It was that small thing that told Louise he was jealous he had to stay behind the bar.

“You’re on fire tonight.”

“We always are. I’ll save you a dance.”

“Please.” Rafael often hated that this job put him so close to something he loved to do. Both Moreno siblings were sensational dancers, and Louise sometimes struggled to keep up.

“I heard some man asking after you,” Rafael said as he watched the dance floor. Louise rolled her eyes. Their conversations had to be shoved into the few minutes Louise wasn’t dancing. They’d learned to keep it to the important details. “I told him you weren’t interested.”

“Much appreciated.” She tried to find the man Rafael was talking about in the crowd.

“He seemed like a real cake-eater.”

“The same could be said about you.”

“But I do it with style.” Rafael winked. “Over there. Handsome. Tall.”

Louise looked to where Rafael was pointing. The man in question didn’t notice them. He was oddly dressed—everyone in the Zodiac wore their best, but his jacket was shabby, and something was off about him. His hat was pulled low over his eyes, and he stuck to the shadows of the club. He was an outsider. Louise turned back to her friend and raised an eyebrow.

“You know me.” She sipped from her glass, trying not to let the bootleg alcohol stay in her mouth too long. “I’m happy where I am. How can you tell he’s handsome if you can’t see him?”

“Every man that tall is also handsome.” Rafael placed the glass he was cleaning under the bar and tossed the rag he was using over his shoulder.

Louise scanned the floor, ready to go again when the band picked up the pace. She hated being on the sidelines, away from the action. She hated watching. She looked back to where the man had been standing. He was gone.

The band changed songs after polite applause, throwing themselves into something with a faster pace. Louise placed a couple of dollar bills on the bar and whisked back onto the dance floor. It was Rosa Maria’s turn to race to the bar.

Louise realized that she should want more. That she should strive to get more out of life than the women who came before her, that she should want real freedom and to follow her dreams.

In a world where women got so little and black women got even less, she had to be better.

However, at twenty-six years old, all she really wanted to do was dance.

 Meet the Author: Nekesa Afia

Nekesa Afia, photo by FizCo Photography

Twenty-four-year-old Nekesa Afia just finished her undergrad degree (bachelor's in journalism, with a minor in English) and is a publishing student.

When she isn't writing, she's dancing, sewing, and trying to pet every dog she sees. She's been writing since she was a child and this is her debut novel.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Just love that book cover, don't you? Don’t you think this story will definitely give a different viewpoint of the Roaring 20s?


  1. Congratulations Nekesa. And hooray for strong women - in life and in fiction.

  2. Hi Mason and Nekesa - the cover reminds me of Frida Kahlo ... so I was drawn in. It definitely sounds an intriguing read ... and I can see other books coming ... congratulations to Nekesa and good luck - Hilary

  3. I love the Harlem 1920s setting and context! And it sounds as though there are some great characters, too. I like it that the story has a strong female lead, too. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Sounds like a terrific book. I like the black protagonist in 1920s Harlem. That's a different take on the period.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.