The King of Hearts (Part 4 of the Red Dog Conspiracy) by Patricia Loofbourrow

The King of Hearts (Part 4 of the Red Dog Conspiracy) by Patricia LoofbourrowThe first book in this series sucked me in though noir is not my preferred genre, being largely about the worst in people. Jacq of Spades balanced the dark world with a young woman, Jacqui, determined to do right by people. If you read my reviews of the other books in the series, you know I’ve been holding on to that Jacqui as the stories got darker. The later Jacqui has made choices I didn’t agree with on moral, if not character, grounds.

Well, my patience has been rewarded.

The King of Hearts is an odd book for this series because it occurs around a court case with Jacqui on trial for exploding the zeppelin and killing hundreds. Even her lawyer believes she did it and counsels her to take a plea deal at first. In a lovely way to remind existing fans, Jacqui recounts the events and reveals a little known fact that brings the hard-hearted lawyer to her side, reigniting the crusader Mr. Pike must once have been.

This is a courtroom drama to a large degree, with recesses for various, and sometimes harrowing, reasons. Despite how she is still clinging to what I (and the other characters) believe to be delusions about Joe, the Jacqui I’ve been waiting for is back. She’s watching the prosecution, the reactions, what’s reported in the press, and putting the pieces together with terrifying results. She even manages to turn an enemy into a reluctant ally by holding to truth over the fiction she’s been charged with. It’s only one of the beautifully done arguments in this book, some, sadly, performed by the prosecution.

As has been the case for some time, the one I sympathize with the most is Tony. Yes, like everyone, his hands are not clean, but he’s been manipulated, lied to, and had his life turned upside down more times than I can count. Of all of them (often including Jacqui), he is the only half-decent one among them…except possibly for Jon whose motivations seem straightforward at this point but are murky. That said, I recount this to show how the characters have grown on me rather than that I believe Jacqui should have sacrificed her freedom to maintain Tony’s delusions. I just think she could have gone about things in a different way than running off with Joe. She approaches the issue differently in this novel though I will say neither the result nor the method to avoid spoilers.

This is a dynamic situation still with some motives coming clear while others become murkier. There are surprise turnarounds revealed in the case and the circumstances around it, new possibilities hinted at for me to ponder, and a larger cast to absorb into the story of Jacqui against the world. As much as I want to mention specifics, too many would disrupt the unfolding of the story, so I’ll hold my tongue.

This is the book I have been waiting for even without an ending to the overall mystery. There are still a lot of questions to be answered, and I’m drowning in clues so can’t put them together into a single coherent solution. Still, I liked most of the answers that came to light. This is the side of Jacqui I prefer. Sure, her lingering belief in Joe annoys me as does her punishment of Tony, but despite her sense of being out of control, she was very much an actor in this pageant. She puts her life on the line so those responsible won’t go free, avoiding the easy way out in favor of putting an end to the conspiracy that threatens the Bridges as a whole.

I note the inventors and the mechanisms beneath the city were given short shrift once again. But the events in the forefront were fascinating enough to forgive this oversight while the few lines slipped in on this topic offer intriguing questions to explore.

P.S. I was given this ARC by the author in return for an honest review.

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