Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: The Red Queen Dies by Frankie Y. Bailey

The Red Queen Dies: A MysteryThe Red Queen Dies: A Mystery by Frankie Y. Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this for a book club. This is one of those cases we're I'm grateful to my book club for putting it in my sights. I would never have known it existed otherwise.

The Red Queen Dies is set in Albany, NY in 2019. A high-speed rail between NYC and Albany has made travel between the cities more feasible, which also invites more crime. Most of it can be caught on one of the cameras set up all over the city, monitoring every street and dark corner. But sometimes, something slips past. Hannah McCabe is assigned to one such case, which appears to be the work of a serial killer. The third woman to turn up dead of a phenol injection straight to her heart is a Broadway actress.

The book is a fairly standard police procedural, with some whimsy sprinkled in. The near-future Albany posited in the book is plausible, and logical based on the advances in technology the book suggests.

What makes the book personally appealing is its setting. I don't get to read a lot of books set where I live, and Bailey makes good use of Albany as a backdrop, sprinkling in familiar landmarks and local history. And I learned a few new tidbits, while I was at it.

The Alice in Wonderland connection, too, is integrated well, without ever feeling heavy-handed. There were places where I felt there were missed opportunities to bring in more references, but one wouldn't want to bog the narrative down.

I don't know how appealing the book is without that local connection. There are a lot of loose ends at the end of the book, and a point that may be a plot hole, or it may come up in a later book. And the dialogue is a little too on-the-nose; people say exactly what they're thinking, repeat pieces of information we already know, and go on for several sentences where most people would stop at one. This is textbook police procedural, too, with all the dead ends and exhaustive research and false starts that involves. It can get tedious if you're not a fan.

But the book also has a lot to recommend it. The world building is superb, the authenticity carefully crafted, and Hannah McCabe is an intriguing main character. I didn't get much of a handle on the biracial detective, but the glimpses I saw made me interested to read more.

I'm glad my book club made me read this book. I hope Bailey has more mysteries ahead for Hannah McCabe.


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