The Cover is often the first impression of a book. Queenpin’s seems not as sophisticated as those of the books from Hard Case Crime (but it is, take a look at the shadow) but it rather seems to resembles those of Carter Brown’s (and to a lesser extent those of Richard S. Prather’s). The book lives up to that image of a 50s homage, the story itself plays sometimes in the 1950th, somewhere in the USA, but, as the title indicates, it is a feminized version. Two females are the main characters of the book. The nameless first person narrator and Gloria Denton, her mentor.
Denton works for the organized crime and collects the vigs and extortion money, ect. She is a long-legged cool woman always on-guard in a potentially hostile environment. When she needs a helping hand she takes up the young first person narrator and starts to cultivate her. With time the narrator takes over some of the responsibilities. Everything works fine until the narrator meets a man and during wild and daring sexual encounters with him forgets her training [although, whether the sex is really wild and daring we don’t know, we only get some indirect evidence, like some bad bruises on the thighs of the first person narrator].
Somehow I thought Queenpin would be a kind of noir, but it takes up to the middle of the book until some kind of noir spiral starts to pull at the two females. Suddenly there is a corpse and the two women start to eye each other suspiciously .
Pastiches like this one are not unusual. It is Abbott’s third, Sandra Scopettone wote some, and also some of Laurie R. King’s, Jacqueline Winspears‚ or Rhys Bowen’s books could be read that way. In comparison Abbott’s story is tougher and more frivolous. All of these show female, though, who were not likely to be real (trivial as it sounds), they are all inversions, especially Abbott’s.
Last year it was one of the hot books in the sphere, this year it won the Edgar and Abbott is held in high esteem as a writer. In spite of all this and the interesting background of Queenpin I was a bit disappointed by the book.
Well, Abbott is a really good writer. The style alludes to the pulpy predecessors and yet it is independent and entertaining. But the story is rather bland, the nameless and contourless narrator, her behavior and her motives are in my eyes not convincing, they didn’t capture me. In her inner monologs she’s afraid, insecure, overstrained; but the daring puns in her answers in dialogs make people fall silent. The first, obviously, provides suspense and the last entertains but it doesn’t result in a believable character.
Queenpin has the attitude of a noir but not the inner strength, for a true noir there is not enough action. It really takes awhile for the story to gain speed. On hindsight, an important part of the story is a trap, but I don’t apprehend who would conceive a construct, that is so doubtful.
All in all Queenpin demonstrates fine writing but I miss a convincing story.