Monday, November 24, 2014

Frankie Y. Bailey Presents The Red Queen Dies! Loved It!

Take one mystery writer working on a police procedural story. Add lots of fairy tale characters, music and plays. Set it 5 years in the future...

And you've got a fascinating kickoff to what I believe will be a must-read series...

I think this novel might have more clues and twists than I've noticed before, or maybe just because once a variety of potential pieces of information was from fairy tales and the history of Albany, readers are never quite sure what will lead to solving the crime... The merge of the original stories of fairy tales, not those being recreated on TV, was fun and, for me, added a dimension to the investigation that was unique and timeless...

The Red Queen Dies

By Frankie Y. Bailey

McCabe pulled herself to the top of the fence and paused to look down into the alley. She jumped and landed on the other side, one foot slipping in dog shit. The man she was chasing darted a glance behind him and kept running.
In a half squat, McCabe drew her weapon and fired. Her bola wrapped around the man's legs. He sprawled forward, entangled in the cords, crashing into moldering cardboard boxes and other garbage.
McCabe ran toward him. He twisted onto his side, trying to sit up and free himself.
"Get these ropes off me, bitch!"
"Stay down," she said, training the weapon, now set to stun, on the perp's scrawny torso. "Roll over on your belly."
He looked up at her face, then at the gun. Either he was convinced she would use it or deterred by the minicam that was attached to the weapon and was recording their encounter. He sagged back to the ground and rolled over.
She stepped to the side, about to order him to raise his arm behind his back so that she could slip on the first handcuff.
"You got him!" Mike Baxter said, running up. He was sweating, cheeks flushed, eyes bright with excitement. "That was great."
"Cuff him," McCabe said, trying not to let Baxter see that she was breathing hard.
She was thirty-four to Baxter's twenty-nine, and, yes, she had outrun him. But she should be in better shape than this. Today's air-quality reading was no excuse...

Set just five years into the future, there were still a number of significant changes in this police procedure... for instance, the gun firing a bolo! What a great idea! And, if something else is needed, then a stunner is used...and, even more importantly, a minicam is recording it all. Just these three changes will have gone far in improving activities on both the part of the criminals and police--don't you think? Kudos to the author for such ideas which, if you think about it, could be implemented fairly easily...

And for creating a gutsy female cop that is both willing to take risks, but detail-oriented in finding what is needed to solve cases...

McCabe has been assigned to murders, so closely resembling each other, that they fear it is a serial killer's work. But when the third dies, an older woman, a former actress, the MO is similar but not the victims. While an FBI agent had been assigned to profile the individual, McCabe was quick to argue and win points on her own perceptions... Which leads me to my selection of a former cop on Person of Interest, one of my favorite shows! I was sooooo sorry to see Taraji Henson leave the show...just as it was getting interesting...LOL

But if you know what kind of cop Taraji was, you'll have a beginning picture of McCabe...

The first two victims were young, and, initially, had no connection to each other that they could find. And when the actress is killed, that's when the case really took off, albeit much more complicated! 
McCabe looked at the camera-eye view of the crime scene. "This vic looks a lot older than the other two. Maybe this isn't our guy's work."
Sullivan said, "That's not what I meant. Look at her face." He panned in, giving them a close-up of the dead woman's face. "Recognize her?"
McCabe leaned forward "She looks like...that can't be who I think it is."
"Unless she has a clone," Sullivan said. "I think we have a match."
Behind them, Dole said."Wanna share it with me? Who do you think she is?"
"She looks a whole lot like Vivian Jessup," McCabe said.
"In the now-deceased flesh," Sullivan said.
"Vivian who?" Dole asked.
"Jessup. She's an actress." McCabe said, "She won a Tony last year. I think it was her second or third."
"See the pendant around her neck?" Sullivan zoomed in.
Dole said, "What is that? A rabbit wearing a jacket? Standing on its hind legs?"
"The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland," McCabe said. "That was Jessup's first role as a child actress."
"She played a rabbit" Dole said.
McCabe smiled. "No, sir, sorry. She played Alice. In a novie musical. Then later, as an adult, she played the Red Queen, one of the other characters on Broadway.
"That's what they call her," Sullivan said. "The Red Queen. Not just because of that role but because of the red hair. That hair's one of her trademarks."
"It could be her." McCabe said. "She was here in July. She was interviewed about a play that she's writing, set here in Albany. She was working with one of the theatre profs at UAlbany on some kind of lab for students..."

Jessup was somewhat of a fanatic fan for Alice in Wonderland and one of the things she'd been involved with was trying to purchase an extremely rare book that she had once owned... 

But while that was something they had to followup on, Jessup had been in Albany because she was hoping to complete a play about John Wilkes Booth on stage while Abraham Lincoln was there as well... 

And then there was the location of where Jessup was found:
Sullivan rapped the screen. "The road down to this ramp was put in last spring. Compliments to Ted Thornton. He wanted a convenient boat ramp on the Albany side of the bridge. He paid, and the city approved...
McCabe nodded. "Okay. So you're the killer and you're driving around with a body in your car and you see a side road--"
"No problem about the dog park being nearby," Sullivan said. "Nobody llikely to be down there walking their dog at night. No hikers following the 'yellow brick road' through the woods and over the old bridge. And probably no cops hanging around the facilities."
"The yellow brick road," McCabe said, her head coming up.
"The bricks...When they were building the old turnpike road, the bricks they used had a yellow hue--"
"I know about that. When I was a kid, a teacher told us that albany once had its own yellow brick road and that a portion of it was still visible...If the victim is Vivian Jessup=="
"Wrong movie. She was in Alice."
"I know that. But both Alice and The Wizard of Oz were stories about little girls who..."

The potential connection to another fairy tale was natural to think of...but so was the idea of "money" which is often the cause of murder... And Ted Thornton was throwing around money in the area where Jessup was left... Thornton quickly became a "person of interest" but proved to be quite willing to help in any way, so he quickly became involved as the questions, and information, continued to pile up...

Two other clues were that flowers were left at the first two sites and all of the women were first given a shot of phenol...

Soames said, "Me personally, I've got this thing about obsessions. When a vic has one, I always wonder if it had something to do with getting him or her dead."
McCabe glanced up. "Me, too. But, in this case, we've got two other victims who have nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland or the theatre...
Baxter had his mouth open when she turned to him. "Damn," he said.
"What?" Soames said.
"We didn't look for that," McCabe said. "With the first two victis, we didn't look for whether they had performed in a middle school pageant or..."

The scope of the investigation was becoming more tedious and time consuming and soon the pressure was on... In the meantime, one particular blogger was almost completely involved with criticizing the police and McCabe in particular. And her background was sure to open up soon...

McCabe was living and breathing this case and placing a load of guilt on herself as well.  So when she turned to "Harlem Nocturne," I thought maybe she was going to pull a "Mike Hammer" thinking hat on...LOL Serious, I was totally into this new character and can't wait to meet her in future novels...

McCabe's father was a retired newsman and started to get involved when the research got back into earlier decades and soon even seeing what was happening in Albany at a given time period was a possible link to this case...

I wonder now as I write this review just how many readers truly appreciate the research involved in pulling potential story lines together. I was impressed, even if the author has the professional credential to support this, very literary murder mystery...

This was a close but not quite sure ending for me. I was about 80% sure but it was more on intuition rather than a true and factual decision.  Guess that's why I love to read 'em but, with a good writer, rarely solve them with complete confidence.  I loved this one, so do check it out!
"Who Me? I'm not in the
story, but, you know curious
cats...and, of course, this
Cheshire Cat is one,
so I'm just here to learn
about this new book!

Hardback provided for review

Frankie Y. Bailey is an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University of Albany/SUNY. She is the author of mysteries as well as nonfiction titles that explore the intersections of crime, history, and popular culture. A Macavity Award winner who has been nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha Awards, Ms. Bailey is active in several writers' organizations and has served as vice president of Mystery Writers of America and as president of Sisters in Crime.

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