Red Queen – Juan Gomez-Jurado

In Red Queen, we first briefly meet Antonia Scott, who unaccountably thinks about suicide for three minutes each day. She obviously is not an ordinary person with an ordinary brain, as she quickly makes calculations related to the physics of jumping in a lake to accomplish her end. It’s a brief, tantalizing introduction. And then, we turn to Jon. I laughed out loud (not just like an emoji: I mean for real laughed) during the first few pages of the first chapter as we meet Jon Gutierrez, He’s a gay Basque rock lifter, presently suspended from the police force for an incident that itself would be funny and even sympathetic if it hadn’t gone viral. As his captain tells him, Jon is in a “big stinking mess,” and then a door opens. He is pulled into a challenge by a strange man he is to call, “Mentor” If Jon pulls off the challenge, this will rescue his career. All he has to do is convince a particular woman to get into a car.

Red Queen is a book that made me look early on into whether it is a series. (It is). It takes place in Spain and is translated from Spanish. The writing is totally engrossing and entertaining, thought much less funny as the plot unfolds. Someone is after the children of very, very wealthy families but the kidnapper does not seem to want money. There is a highly confidential, deep background government organization that deals with highly unusual crimes. Similar organizations exist internationally and cooperate on solving these, each with a “Red Queen,” whose intelligence, creativity and originality is honed to this purpose.

Quickly, we are pulled into a crime scene that is strange enough to warrant the Red Queen’s involvement. The teenage son of a wealthy family has been murdered in a unique manner. Usually the organization cooperates with police but this case is tricky. Still, they have a cop on board: Jon. Then, there is an obviously related crime and another head of an obscenely wealthy family is faced with a demand and a deadline … and it is not for money. Gomez-Jurado’s writing style is fast paced, exciting, entertaining, humorous at times, sad at others and this was an I could not put it down book. It is partly about ruthless, violent people and there are some dangerous scenes. The violence is expressed through the perceptions of those involved as they struggle to understand what is happening to them and to react to it. (As opposed to blow by blow descriptions of what the actor is doing to the victim). I will be counting the minutes till the next book is translated and published. (Kudos to the translator, Nick Caster) Highly recommend.

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