Review of Red Queen by Juan Gómez-Jurado

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Silence of the Lambs? I am so there!

Blurb: Antonia Scott―the daughter of a British diplomat and a Spanish mother―has a gifted forensic mind, whose ability to reconstruct crimes and solve baffling murders is legendary. But after a personal trauma, she’s refused to continue her work or even leave her apartment.

Jon Gutierrez, a police officer in Bilbao―disgraced, suspended, and about to face criminal charges―is offered a chance to salvage his career by a secretive organization that works in the shadows to direct criminal investigations of a highly sensitive nature. All he has to do is succeed where many others have failed: Convince a recalcitrant Antonia to come out of her self-imposed retirement, protecting her and helping her investigate a new, terrifying case.

The case is a macabre, ritualistic murder―a teen-aged boy from a wealthy family whose body was found without a drop of blood left in it. But the murder is just the start. A high-ranking executive and daughter of one of the richest men in Spain is kidnapped, a crime which is tied to the previous murder. Behind them both is a hidden mastermind with even more sinister plans. And the only person with a chance to see the connections, solve the crimes and successfully match wits with the killer before tragedy strikes again…is Antonia Scott.

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An older detective, Jon Gutierrez, who believes that the end justifies the means. A woman, Antonia Scott, with a brilliant mind who has suffered what she considers a fate worse than death and refuses to work again. A kidnapper/killer who leaves his first victim in a macabre pose. Juan Gómez-Jurado has created a thrilling mystery drawing Jon and Antonia together, the latter rather unwillingly, to find a ruthless kidnapper before he murders again in Red Queen.

Red Queen with its fascinating main female character, Antonia Scott, immediately draws comparisons to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for better or worse, but those comparisons are superficial because Antonia is a groomed individual while Lisbeth Salander is grittier and her talents organic. Antonia is, indeed, brilliant, her mind moving at warp speed through scenarios which makes her so very intriguing to read about. Likewise, Lisbeth is fascinating but in a totally different way. I would suggest that Lisbeth relies on street-smart wits gained from experience (along with her brain) while Antonia’s brain functions like a computer, resourcing data as needed. Both make for equally fascinating characters.

Antonia’s foil is Jon Gutierrez, who, while nowhere near as intelligent as Antonia, has gained from his years of experience dealing with criminals. His observations prove to be complementary to hers. Their very different personalities make for some interesting interactions that are a driving force for Red Queen.

The mystery is as intriguing as the main characters because, although some chapters are written from the POV of the kidnapper, the reader doesn’t have a clear idea of who the kidnapper is. Motive become slowly apparent. The parents of the victims have greedily built their livelihoods on the backs of the poor, exploiting as necessary but not making amends. The child will pay for the erring of the parents.

Some chapters are also written in the POV of the second kidnapping victim, Carla. Her character changes as hours pass, showing her that she only has herself to rely on. Carla’s passages can sometimes be difficult to read.

If Red Queen feels slighter than the novel it’s inevitably compared to, The Girl with the Dragon, the difference of around 300 pages may be why. While there are no drawn-out passages discussing economics, character background is sparser. However, I don’t know that I would have noticed as much if the idea of comparison had not been put in my mind. Red Queen is exceedingly readable and mostly satisfying. At the end I wanted to read more about these two characters.

An excellent introduction to a fascinating character and trilogy.

I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Red Queen will be on sale on March 14. You can pre-order here.

2 thoughts on “Review of Red Queen by Juan Gómez-Jurado

  1. I love how eclectic your reading is and we never know what you’ll be reviewing! I still think you should write reviews for Kirkus.

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