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The Red Queen Dies: A MysteryThe Red Queen Dies: A Mystery by Frankie Y. Bailey

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Publisher:    Minotaur Books
Release Date:   September 10, 2013
Category:   Crime, Mystery
Setting:  Albany, NY
Author Website:    http://www.frankieybailey.com

 

 

About the book:

 

In the year 2019, Detective Hannah McCabe gets called to investigate the murder of a third woman. Albany, NY might have a serial killer. But this victim doesn’t follow the pattern of the other two. This victim is a famous actress who made her career starring in Alice in Wonderland. The Red Queen Dies is a police procedural that will keep you guessing as McCabe hunts for the killer.

 

My review:

 

I really like Detective Hannah McCabe and I can see the potential here for a book series. She is a strong character, not without faults, and I want to see her grow as a character. Bailey has proven with The Red Queen Dies that she knows how to set up a mystery and keep the reader guessing right up until the murder is revealed.

 

My problem with this book becoming a series is the setting. The Red Queen Dies is described as a police procedural set in a parallel universe in the near future. I wish Bailey had ended the description with police procedural and kept the novel set in our current world because I don’t believe world building is one of her talents (or a significant part of her world building was perhaps cut out.) I feel like McCabe’s world could have been so much more but little attention was given to it.

 

First off, the parallel universe isn’t different enough from our current world to add any value to this story. On the very first page of the story we learn that in 2012 Earth has had a close encounter with a UFO but this encounter plays absolutely no part in the story. Personally, I believe the first page of a novel should be reserved for key information about the story you are reading.  So this was a complete failure and waste of an opening for me. I understand that Bailey was probably trying to imply that the world has gone a little crazy in this parallel universe but this one tale about McCabe’s wasn’t enough to do that and wasn’t worthy of first page status.

 

But I think Bailey really lost me on page 6 when she introduces an ORB – which I later figured out to be something like a smart phone. Bailey never provides the reader with a definition or explanation of the acronym or clearly tells what it is tool that everyone is using is. (It bothered me so much that I tweeted Bailey asking what ORB stood for it, but I never got a response. Bailey isn’t what I would call an active Twitter user but she does have an account.  Left on our own, readers have to figure out what an ORB is  over the course of a story as we see how characters use this essential tool that everyone seems to have. If Bailey had just defined the acronym for me – as part of her world building – I wouldn’t have given it another thought, instead every time I saw a reference to ORB it reminded me how poorly this parallel universe was built.

 

Second, I wouldn’t call 2019 near-future, I call it tomorrow. In today’s world, five years is nothing. If it is going to be in the near future, make it 20 or 30 years in the future so that the differences are significant and noteworthy. The only change that I identified in this near-future is that blogging was now called threading and that doesn’t really make any impact on the story. If the future is so close that I can almost predict what I’ll be doing then I don’t think the time is playing a significant role in the story either so why not just make it present time. Does five years really change anything?

 

Third, I think the author was so consumed with proving that references we know in our history also happened in McCabe’s parallel universe history that she packed as many pop culture references into the story as possible. It was overwhelming to the point of annoying.  I believe readers will tolerate this book depending on their appreciation for Albany, NY and old movies because Bailey has packed it with local Albany historical and classic movie references.

 

All that being said, The Red Queen Dies does contain a good murder mystery. I enjoyed the lead detective Hannah McCabe. And would have enjoyed her story much more if it was just set in our world. On the other hand, Bailey may have plans for McCabe and maybe her parallel universe in The Red Queen Dies is just the first step in her bigger picture for a series of books. I’d like to read more about McCabe. We got a hint that she has a love interest but never learned who it was. But before I invest any more time in McCabe’s story, I think I need to see that Bailey has invested the time in properly building her world. Part of me feels like Bailey has McCabe’s world fleshed out, but that it was mostly edited out of this first installment. If being in the future and in a parallel universe is truly key to McCabe’s world then we need to see more of an investment in that world building in the next book without losing any of the skill that Bailey has shown in the mystery writing. If she can combine the two of those I can see McCabe becoming a popular sci-fi crime fighting hero.

 

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