The Red Dog Conspiracy is a conspiracy that spans many books and about which we learn more with each one. The Ten of Spades (Chapter 5) is the latest and one written for existing fans. I say this because a lot happens, there are several smaller mysteries solved, and the conspiracy’s scope becomes clearer, but there isn’t really an independent story. Still, what draws me in are the personal moments, the characters, and the sense of place, all of which were present from the very noir detective scene setting in the beginning to the card lingo used throughout.
Jacqui is true to herself in that she’s impulsive, selfish, and occasionally wise. These characteristics are tempered by what her alcoholism drove her to, the cravings of an addict, and the trail of destroyed lives and bodies she’s left in her wake. I call her selfish more because she doesn’t consider the impact of her actions on others. What appeals about her is how she’ll go to any length to help those who hire her or even just ask for her assistance. She’s a good person in a strange situation with a horrible past and an upbringing that blinds her to the reality of those around her for all she believes herself one of them.
This book ended on a powerful note even without a major, independent plotline, so it’s odd to say the section after the initial beginning was slow and I struggled a bit. The book starts out reminding readers of what has happened as Jacqui reviews the case and reminisces about what has come before. Sometimes this worked for me, especially how the past connects into her present, but other times it didn’t. Then, about 45% of the way in, everything clicks together in a single scene, and I had trouble putting the book down when I had to. I include this to warn you, but also to point out it’s worth the effort if your reaction is like mine because good things come to those who wait.
If you’ve been following my reviews of the series, you’ll know I have an issue with how Jacqui treats Joseph Kerr and Tony. I’ll say only how her reasons are clearer and more grounded in this book while she’s finally starting to see some of the things I picked up on a while back. But then, I’m a suspicious sort. I’ve found Jacqui puts together some pieces of the puzzle quickly, and others she notices but then either dismisses or forgets if she realizes their significance at all.
This is less a detective series, despite her being a private investigator, than a social, cultural exploration of a place built on the ashes of environmental collapse after it’s been taken over by the ignorant who saw opportunity where they did not understand the whole. It’s fascinating and populated by complex characters, so I keep coming back and looking forward to seeing what next will be thrown in Jacqui’s way.
Note: The book releases in early October, but you can pre-order it if you wish.
P.S. I received this ARC from the author in return for an honest review.