Review: Red Queen, Antonia Scott #1 (Juan Gomez-Jurado)

We begin the book with a kidnapping, and it doesn’t slow down very much from that point: a kidnapping, multiple murders, a corrupt cop, a forensics genius, a mysterious organization, an arrogant cop, and an aging journalist. There’s a lot going on here. Unfortunately, there are too many coincidences, a heroine that is described as special, which turns out to be a genius-level intelligence [aired with some kind of monstrous and odd medical experiment that turned her into an Asperger’s like character who is much like Sherlock Holmes or The “Bones” character from the tv series, based on a book series. Antonia Scott is her name, and she blames herself for her husband’s injuries during a police operation, which left him reliant on machines to keep him alive – basically, in a vegetative state.

She is teamed up with Jon Guitierrez, the aforementioned corrupt cop – because he was accused of planting drugs in the car of a suspect – who is also a fat gay man who lives with his mother. Toss a trope on that bonfire of pile of crimes and such up there. Jon is approached by a man who belongs to a super secret organization that works on particular crimes. He recruits Jon by, one, offering to pay him, since Jon is currently suspended, and two, telling him that all he has to do is convince Antonia to get in a car and then drive her to a particular address.

This unlikely pair is assigned to look into the case of a young man who was abducted and killed, then staged in the house of a super-rich family. It’s also a case of mistaken identity, as the young man is not the son of woman they were attempting to extort. And this is the point at which Antonia’s bizarre behavior and manner of seeing the scene begin. She also draws several conclusions that seem to be a bit premature. Whatever the case, they are then pulled out of that and reassigned by the mystery man (codename: Mentor).

The pair are then told to start looking at another crime, this time the kidnapping of a woman who is the daughter of what sounded to me like a billionaire. Interestingly, he has receive a all from the kidnapper(s), with a bizarre directive for him to say something publicly that would be highly embarrassing. They learn that in the other case, the woman who runs one of the largest banks in Madrid (and it seems all of Spain) has received a similar call and demand. Obviously neither of the two want to submit to these demands.

What follows from here is a series of leaps of logic, actions taken by Antonia and Jon that in any reasonable law enforcement organization would result in them not just being taken off the cases but tossed into jail. As it turns out, the ranking investigator from the local police – the typical arrogant local law enforcement dude with a giant ego who thinks himself always right – kicks them out of the crime scenes. They ignore him, naturally, returning to both scenes when the locals are gone.

There come some coincidences, and a bunch of flashbacks too tell us how Antonia changed from just a very smart woman into some kind of crime scene whisperer/savant. I won’t go further into the plot in current (book-wise) time. But I will say that the astute reader who takes in the details will be able to determine the kidnapper/murderer as well as the incident that started everything and pretty much how the book will end.

I will add this warning: the kidnapped woman is put in a cell of sorts that is rock and does not have the vertical clearance for her to stand up, basically making it a long stone box. If you’re claustrophobic, this might be an issue for you, as it was for me.

There were a lot of ideas here, and I think the idea of Antonia and what she can do is quite interesting. But it seems to have made her some kind of superhero. For instance: when the pair need to bribe someone, and don’t have the funds to do it, she teaches herself a card game, goes to an online gambling site, and wins enough to pay of the guys they need to get information out of in less tan half an hour. It’s all just running around from that point to reach the end.

It is an ok read. Not great, not the worst I’ve ever read. For the middle of the road it took, it’s a three. I’ll read the next one, probably.

Three stars out of five.

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the reading copy.

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