Thursday, August 30, 2012
Queenpin by, Megan Abbott
A young woman hired to keep the books at a seedy nightclub is taken under the wing of the infamous Gloria Denton, a mob luminary who reigned during the Golden Era of Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano. Suddenly, the world is at her feet - as long as she doesn't take any chances, like falling for the wrong guy.
Megan Abbott's Anthony nominated 2006 short story "Policy", which appeared in the collection Damn Near Dead, was the genesis for Queenpin. It featured the same setup, the same characters, and the same killer opening line. A throwback to the era of pulp, Queenpin won the 2008 Edgar Award.
When you boil it down to the core elements, Queenpin is pretty standard noir, only with the gender roles reversed. Gloria Denton schools our unnamed narrator in how to make fat stacks of cash and stay safe and alive. The girl falls in love with a gambler in the middle of the rottenest streak of bad luck you'd ever seen who tempts her to double cross her boss. Double and triple crosses ensue until everyone is doing what they can to stay ahead of both the gun and the law.
What makes Queenpin a whole heck of a lot of fun are the well drawn characters and Ms. Abbott's ability to echo the patois of noir without making it sound like parody. That's a feat few modern authors can pull off. Within mystery circles, each new book by Ms. Abbott is greeted with anticipation and ebullient praise. I'm definitely going to check out more of her work.
More praise for Queenpin here.