The Five of Diamonds by Patricia Loofbourrow

Part 6 of the Red Dog Conspiracy

The Five of Diamonds by Patricia Loofbourrow

The Red Dog Conspiracy is a massive saga with The Five of Diamonds as part six. There is mystery, intrigue, and conspiracies all around, making jumping into the middle unwise. You’ll want to start with part one. You can read my review of The Jacq of Spades if you’d like but reading this post further could lay groundwork you shouldn’t know.

For existing readers, you can always reread the series, but the author provided enough context for me to remember the important bits.

You might recall from my earlier reviews how I felt the steampunk mechanics (as opposed to the Victorian influences on society and clothing) have been relegated to the background. This is a fascinating post-apocalyptic world built on a steampunkesque frame. The mechanics underlie everything and yet function without focus for the most part. Or did.

This is the book I’ve been waiting for. Right in the beginning, the city’s mechanics are thrown into the limelight when the trains stop working. This affects more than most would realize, causing problems that ripple through all levels of the city. The inventors are put on the spot while others rush to come up with stop-gap measures until the trains are repaired.

This is why I’m enjoying the series so much.

Things have an impact whether personal or city-wide. Little happens without setting off another crisis, large or small. The characters may frustrate me at times, especially Jacqui, but this shows how much I have invested rather than reasons outside of the story. I don’t always approve of their choices, even when I can see why they made them.

And speaking of Jacqui, while the events of the past and her emotions do still affect her, she doesn’t drown in them. The book returns to the PI noir voice I prefer. Jacqui focuses on seeking answers and puzzling things out, whether official cases or mysteries she trips over. I enjoyed her moments of practicality which balanced out times when her emotions, or addiction, ran strong.

The narrative is very engaging and sucked me in. There were several exchanges I enjoyed enough to share with my family. Even out of context, the humor came through.

The complicated intrigues between the Families throughout the series involve more secrets than seem likely. Yet they work within this noir world to create an underpinning of mystery. Every encounter could have multiple levels only some, if any, of the participants recognize.

This led me to become suspicious even where the objects might be innocent. In different spots, I crafted wildly speculative solutions to places where things didn’t add up, though I maintain my distrust is the true reason in most cases.

I mentioned above how I enjoy the world building, but I’ll squeeze in one specific example because it’s perfect. The cards are more than just a conceit of the title and Family names. They show up in common phrases and in how people interpret the events around them, giving the world more depth.

The nature of the series means there are always multiple mysteries in effect. This book starts with the trains failing, protesters in the Diamond quadrant, and several other issues beyond the looming Red Dog Conspiracy. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you what is or isn’t solved, but several pieces come to a satisfying conclusion while others remain open to keep us eager for the next book.

P.S. I received an Advanced Reader Copy from the author in return for an honest review. I have since bought my own copy.

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