The first book of Spanish author Juan Gómez-Jurado’s crime thriller trilogy, Red Queen (translated by Nick Caistor) demonstrates (if it needed demonstrating again) that English-speaking authors do not have a lock on any genre. That said, while absolutely referencing American serial killer and terrorist thrillers, the book series it seems to draw on most also became huge in translation – Stieg Larson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
It seems that after reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, European crime fighting agencies all decided that they needed to get themselves one of those. That is, a preternaturally smart and resourceful person (preferably a woman) who could help them solve or head off major crimes. In Spain, this person was Antonia Scott. They also know that in order to be effective, Scott needs to be paired with a rumpled but dogged investigator, in this case it is disgraced policeman Jon Gutiérrez who is blackmailed into working with Scott. The two are brought in to investigate a strange murder and then a linked disappearance. But nothing is quite as it seems and their effective but unconventional methods rub the regular investigators up the wrong way and Gutiérrez himself has plenty of detractors who want to make things even worse.
Red Queen is a classic Sherlock Holmes style crime thriller with a main pair that includes a crime solving savant and a handy sidekick. Gómez-Jurado deploys the well worn tropes of this genre effectively, creating interest in his main characters, giving some point-of-view chapters to the perpetrator and his victims, deploying some effective twists and building to a tense finale. And leaves the ending open for an expansion of his world and an escalation of tension that will bring readers back for the sequels – Black Wolf and White King – which are likely in the translation pipeline. In the meantime there will also be the Amazon Prime TV series based on the books– expected later this year.