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RED QUEEN by Juan Gómez-Jurado: Book Review

Red Queen, the first mystery in the trilogy by Spanish author Juan Gómez-Jurado, is an outstanding combination of thriller and police procedural.  Its two protagonists, polymath Antonia Scott and Inspector Jon Gutiérrez of the Bilbao police could not be more different, but it is their very differences that make them a most formidable team.

Antonia Scott has hidden herself from the world following a tragic event that left her beloved husband in a coma three years ago.  As the novel progresses, readers will learn that what happened to Marcos was in no way her fault, but nevertheless she blames herself. 

Jon Gutiérrez is dealing with his own trauma, but this one is on him.  Attempting to rescue a teenage prostitute from her abusive pimp, he decides to put heroin in the pimp’s car and have him arrested.  However, as no good deed goes unpunished, he foolishly tells the young woman what he plans to do, not realizing that Desi is still in love with the man.  Desi and her procurer arrange for Gutiérrez to be filmed on her cell phone while he plants the drugs; now Jon has been suspended and is facing criminal charges.

A man calling himself Mentor offers Jon a prid pro quo option, Jon takes him up on it, and the video is removed from television stations and video sites.  The next step, which if successful would allow Jon to return to the police force, is up to him.  He must get Antonia, whom he’s never met, to go with him to Mentor.

When Jon first visits Antonia, she wants nothing to do with whatever it is that Mentor wants her to do.  She’s dealt with him before and is done with him.  Then she has a change of heart, and she and the inspector go to the mansion where Mentor is.  There a horrific scene awaits them.  The body of a teenager is arranged on the living room couch, dressed in a white shirt and pants, but his body is nearly transparent.  He has bled to death.

The combination of Antonia’s gifts in language, technology, and mathematics and Jon’s investigative ability are the reasons that Mentor has chosen them to solve this crime.  The young boy was the son of the head of a major Spanish bank, and his family is cooperating, almost completely, with the police.

At the same time, Carla Ortiz, the daughter of the world’s wealthiest man, is on her way to an equestrian meet with her beloved mare Maggie.  Her automobile, an enormous Porsche Cayenne, is stopped on a back road, her driver is killed, and she’s abducted and imprisoned.

How are these two crimes, one the murder of a teenager from a millionaire’s family, the other the kidnapping of the daughter of a billionaire’s family, related?  And why is neither family willing to be completely open to the police about the ransoms demanded, which they are not willing to pay?

Red Queen is a fascinating mystery that brings the reader into the Basque part of Spain.  Learning why Antonia has removed herself from the world and how Jon has armored himself against the homosexual slurs and prejudices of his colleagues is a major part of the appeal of this outstanding novel.

You can read about Juan Gómez-Jurado at various sites on the web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.



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