Sunday, February 26, 2023

Book Review - Red Queen by Juan Gómez-Jurado



Red Queen by Juan Gómez-Jurado is the first book in the trilogy. The compelling international bestseller was recently translated for English readers.  It is also slated to become a major television series in the near future.

Our protagonist Antonia Scott has a brilliant mind. She is the daughter of a prominent British diplomat.  She is able to remember everything she has read and can reconstruct crimes in her mind.  She is able to predict and solve cases before most people can even register the clues in front of them. She isn’t a member of the police force, and most people don’t even know that she exists.  However, she is a member of a secret organization, and is known as the Red Queen. She is well renowned in her field of problem solving and has assisted the police in several high caliber cases without the public knowing. She and her abilities are a well-guarded secret.

Jon Gutierrez is a disgraced detective in Bilbao facing suspension and criminal charges. A mysterious man appears and offers him a clean slate and a chance to save his career if Jon does him a simple favor. Jon needs to convince Antonia to come out of her self-imposed exile after tragedy keeps her isolated. Jon can’t believe his luck and jumps at the chance to save his career. However, Antonia refuses to leave her apartment after witnessing an attack that left her traumatized. Will Jon be able to persuade Antonio to leave her apartment and solve a murder where a body was found without a single drop of blood left in it?

I found Antonia and Jon to be interesting and complex characters. I like that the author gave little snippets of the characters’ history and background as the story progressed. I liked that Jon is a gay police officer and he doesn’t fit into a stereotype. Instead, he and Antonia are well developed characters who struggle with certain situations and try to do their best to solve the case.

I thought the book was a captivating read but I felt that there were some nuances that I may have missed because I am not familiar with Spain’s culture and idioms. For example, it seems that the way the police force is set up, that some branches have more power but, I was confused when Antonia showed them a national police badge and they were not cooperative even though she was a police officer from a higher branch. I am not familiar with all police processes but, what I gathered from watching US based police shows and reading English mystery books, that there are different levels of police but, if a “higher” branch of police comes into play, that the local police give up some control. I do understand that people do have egos with “chips on their shoulders” but, I found it confusing that Antonia and Jon had to almost beg to be included in the investigation. Perhaps, it would have been helpful to include a section/footnote to go into more detail to help readers understand certain nuances.

I didn’t care for the derogatory remarks that were said to Jon because he was gay and/or fat. I thought that repeated use of insults was uncalled for as Jon was a caring and thoughtful detective. Out of all the characters, he was consistent in his behaviors and feelings. I had a hard time connecting with Antonia during certain parts of the book. I felt that her character was a bit inconsistent. She was upset and distant with her father because of something he did in the past but she does the same thing with her son. When she realizes that her son doesn’t like her very much, she gets annoyed by it, instead of working towards a better relationship with him. I hope in the later books that the author addresses these familial relationships in more detail.

The book was filled with action and twists. The book ends with a teaser to the second book to entice readers with something to look forward to. The author included a note in the end explaining his inspiration behind the book. It was a bit sparse but it was a great inclusion. I thought this a great beginning of a thrilling trilogy and I can’t wait to read about Jon’s and Antonia’s next mystery.


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