Title: The Red Queen Dies
Author: Frankie Y. Bailey
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
From the publisher—
The year is 2019, and a drug used to treat soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder, nicknamed “Lullaby,” has hit the streets. Swallowing a little pill erases traumatic memories, but what happens to a criminal trial when the star witness takes a pill and can’t remember the crime? When two women are murdered in quick succession, biracial police detective Hannah McCabe is charged with solving the case. In spite of the advanced technology, including a city-wide surveillance program, a third woman is soon killed, and the police begin to suspect that a serial killer is on the loose. But the third victim, a Broadway actress known as “The Red Queen,” doesn’t fit the pattern set by the first two murders.
With the late September heat sizzling, Detective Hannah McCabe and her colleagues on the police force have to race to find the killer in a tangled web of clues that involve Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
Disclaimer: I have known Frankie for years, having first met her when she came to my store in May 2001 for a mystery author event, and have thoroughly enjoyed her previous books. That has had no effect on this review.
Favorite authors surprise us sometimes by heading off in a direction we don’t expect and that’s the case with The Red Queen Dies by Frankie Y. Bailey. The beginning of a new series, it made me sit up and pay attention because it never crossed my mind that she would add a science fiction flavor to her mysteries. Does it work? Yes, I really think it does because it’s not the least bit heavy-handed and true mystery fans are unlikely to be miffed by it.
In essence, Ms. Bailey has created an alternate universe that’s just a little different from our own world—well, except for the little detail of a UFO visit a few years ago. Mostly, we just see small technological changes that could very well happen in my lifetime. The reader doesn’t have to struggle to understand all the fancy stuff, although I would like to know what the acronym ORB (a sort of glorified smartphone) stands for.
Meanwhile, we still have a standard police procedural with detective partners Hannah McCabe and Mike Baxter investigating what appears to be a serial killer. The first two murders are rather mundane at first glance but the public’s attention is drawn to the investigation when a famous actress becomes the third victim. The public’s fear is also being heightened by the provocations of a well-known “threader” (a sort of reporter) who seems to have a very low opinion of the Albany Police Department. (It should be noted that the serial killings that take place in this book are not nearly as gruesome and lurid as can be found in other police procedurals.)
Two other crimes, both involving citizens who were the victims of assaults, are part of the story but neither has any real effect on the primary investigation, nor is the drug called “Lullaby” of any particular importance (but I suspect it will be in future books). There are some interesting and very diverse elements that come to light regarding the serial killings including the actress’ affinity for Alice in Wonderland and a summer camp that took place years ago but the real crux of the story is the workings of a police investigation that appears on more than one occasion to be heading nowhere.
Character development takes something of a backseat to the plot in this first title in the series but there is an interesting revelation about Hannah’s childhood that leads the reader to an understanding of Hannah’s personality but also to more questions. I’m looking forward to getting to know Hannah and Mike and their colleagues much better in future volumes.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2013.
About the Author
FRANKIE Y. BAILEY is an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY). Bailey is the author of mysteries as well as non-fiction titles that explore the intersections of crime, history, and popular culture. Bailey is a Macavity Award-winner and has been nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha awards. A past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime, she is on the Albany Bouchercon 2013 planning committee.
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by Frankie Y. Bailey, leave a comment below. The winning name
will be drawn on the evening of Sunday, September 15th and the prize
will be sent out at the end of the tour.