REVIEW: The Red Queen Dies by Frankie Y. Bailey

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Title: The Red Queen Dies

Author: Frankie Y. Bailey

Publisher/Publication Date: Minotaur Books, pub. date September 10th, 2013

The Red Queen Dies caught my eye because it involves two of my favorite things: Alice in Wonderland and crime. I do so love a good mystery novel. Overall, the book was a fairly enjoyable and quick read.

Hannah McCabe, our crime fighting detective, is a likeable character. Obviously intelligent and dedicated to her job, she still has moments of humanity throughout the book to prevent her from becoming the cold and stoic detective that seems to pop up so often in crime fiction. Her somewhat crotchety father was also a favorite of mine throughout the book and I hope to see him again in future books in the series. Character development overall is weak throughout the novel, but as it is intended to be the first book in a series and the fairly short length, this didn’t really surprise me. There is enough shown about the characters to keep the reader interested in future stories but I would have preferred a little bit more development at least about Hannah.

Something similar occurs with portions of the plot. The mystery itself I really liked. While I had an inkling of who the killer was, it was still nice to watch all the pieces fall into place. What I had some issues with was some of the secondary story lines. Portions of the book, especially some of the scenes with Ashby and then Pettigrew, seemed forced in there to serve as some sort of cliff-hanger but without the cliff(i.e. no danger, just unanswered questions). I understand the need to give readers a reason to come back, but this can also be accomplished by building a strong character that the reader becomes attached to and that’s why they come back. Stuart McBride does this with his Logan McRae series. I came back for the second book because of McRae, not because of any dangling plot threads.

I liked Bailey’s writing throughout the book. The short and to the point voice of the narrative lends an immediacy to the text that works well in a mystery novel. Portions of the book reminded me of the old time hard-boiled mysteries of Dashiell Hamett. The first book in a series often isn’t a great indication of the real writing strengths of an author or staying power of a character, so I’m going to hold off on making a final decision on the series until I can read the second book. The series and its detective have serious potential, but I’d like to see a little bit more focus in the plot or better development of the secondary storylines to make them more than throwaway scenes.

 

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