reviewed by Eric Ellis
Red Queen by Juan Gomez-Jurado is one of those novels when certain aspects of the novel are disclosed they could be considered to be story spoilers, therefore, the less known beforehand, the better. Red Queen is also the first novel of a trilogy, with Red Queen being the first to be translated into English.
Red Queen opens with the introduction of Antonia Scott. Scott is a tiny and tough eccentric person living in a sparsely furnished apartment and possesses a mind with unique abilities. As the novel opens, Scott is in the middle of an exactly three-minute ritual of the meditative contemplation of suicide when she realizes someone is coming up the stairs that lead to her apartment. Scott strongly desires no visitors, especially when interrupted during this ritual she conducts to maintain her sanity and to quiet and control her mind.
The person creeping up the stairs is Madrid, Spain police detective Joe Gutierrez. Gutierrez is overweight, but strong, openly gay, and currently on suspension while possibly facing jail time for an act of goodwill misconduct. Previously, Gutierrez had been contacted by a man coined Mentor and was persuaded to fetch Scott upon the promise of help with his misconduct issue. Mentor informed Gutierrez, that if successful in persuading Scott to come along with him and meet Mentor at another location, he would be able to have Gutierrez reinstated and his misconduct problem disappear as if it never even happened.
With much difficulty, Gutierrez is able to collect the tight-lipped and socially walled-off Scott and the two then meet Mentor outside a home in an area of the city described by Gutierrez as a “VIP zone within a VIP zone.”
Inside the luxurious home of a wealthy and highly influential mother, they are then shown the body of a young man murdered in a manner with apparent ritualistic undertones.
With the mother being unusually coy and uncooperative, Mentor then tasks Gutierrez and Scott to conduct their own secretive investigation along side of the authorities. Mentor also warns the two to be careful of running afoul of the ambitious lead investigator who clearly wants nothing to do with the two, which they soon learn includes him actively dismissing any findings the two may make.
Before long, a second heinous crime occurs with just as bizarre circumstances, leading investigators to ponder the motive behind these crimes, while at the same time slowly starting to realize some things may not be what they seem to be.
As the story moves forward, Gomez-Jurado slowly reveals more and more about the two main characters, which allows the reader to develop a favorable kinship toward a pair of opposites that appear to mix as well as oil and water, but who also are slowly developing a respectful relationship of admiration and respect for each other.
Red Queen then evolves into a criminal investigation race against time where the author continues to build a complex story with different plot threads. Gomez-Jurado also increases the tension with an additional layer of destructive internecine rivalry between the two investigative groups which may hamper the identification and apprehension of the suspect.
While the story may seem familiar in some aspects, Gomez-Jurado’s introduction of Scott, Gutierrez, and Mentor allows the novel to appear fresh and appealing to those that enjoy interesting characters and stories that constantly move forward and tales that end in unexpected ways.
Red Queen has an anticipated US release date of March 2023.