This is the second in the Red Dog Conspiracy series I have read, and I’ll tell you up front it didn’t go the way I’d expected from where The Jacq of Spades ends. I’d thought to see more of the gearing underpinning this society, but while there is mention of that story thread, it’s not the focus of The Queen of Diamonds.
Instead of delving deeply into the gears beneath the Bridges, this book is all about court politics, though in a more modern fashion than high fantasy. Conspiracy hobbyists should love the Bridges because everyone is plotting against everyone. This is definitely noir, including the traditional breaking of the narrative timeline. People are doing nasty things for sometimes known, and sometimes not yet uncovered, reasons. It’s what makes the world turn for the Families, who are in an uneasy alliance with shifting loyalties, cease fires, and outright aggression.
The Queen of Diamonds leaps into the latest puzzle from the start, with short reminders to help continuing readers and provide enough relevant background to ground readers jumping into the overall story here.
While clearly, at least to my mind, a middle novel, The Queen of Diamonds offers its own, internal story that involves folks we already know and some new ones. It opens some doors into the depths of treachery among the families yet closes none despite solving the main mystery.
This book is not for the lighthearted full as it is of backstabbing and double dealing, but it’s fascinating in a car wreck sort of way. Jacqui is an unwilling participant who is held trapped by bonds of affection as much as blackmail, but especially in this one, she seems to be learning the extent of her power might not be as limited as she thinks.
I’d hoped to see more of the inventors, as I mentioned above, and that didn’t happen to any significant degree, but there’s more going on here than even an intrepid investigator can uncover.
Nor is Jacqui on an intriguing case during the book, or so she thinks. In the course of something simple, she discovers greater plots and mysteries than she had expected. We get to sit on her shoulder as she pieces things together, which is fun. She doesn’t see the whole of it yet, and so neither do we, but she’s smart and clever enough to solve one major riddle.
As I mentioned above, bonds of affection are also in play during The Queen of Diamonds, from friendships all the way to love. It’s a tribute to the conspiracy aspects that I don’t trust the folks Jacqui does and I think, in part, she’s making a huge mistake. At the same time, she’s as torn as I am, so who knows what will come next? I do wish she’d come clean with her husband Tony about the investigative sideline, but I understand her reasons not to, which is part of the car wreck feeling when she is doing what she must but I keep thinking it will end poorly for all involved.
Definitely noir, definitely intriguing, The Queen of Diamonds offers a tangled, complicated society held together by money, greed, and underhanded dealings while on the surface it is all pretty dresses, balls, and rigid classism. Even a simple dinner party is full of minefields as you will soon discover if you join in a walk on the dark side of the Bridges.
If you’re new to the series, check out my review of the first book, The Jacq of Spades. The Queen of Diamonds releases Oct 1st but is available for pre-order on Amazon, Kobo, and other eBook stores.
P.S. I received this copy from the author in return for an honest review.