As seen in Issue 4 of Uncaged Book Reviews. To read the interview and review of the 2nd book in The Red Dog Conspiracy series – Queen of Diamonds, please see the issue.
The Jacq of Spades
Kidnapping. Murder. Betrayal.
Would you put your life at risk for a child you barely know?
In a far future US, the once-beautiful domed neo-Victorian city of Bridges is now split between four crime families in an uneasy cease-fire. Social disparity increasing and its steam-driven infrastructure failing, a new faction is on the rise: the Red Dogs.
22 year old Jacqueline Spadros was kidnapped from her mother’s brothel and sold to the Spadros syndicate ten years ago. The murder of her best friend Air as he tried to save her from them haunts her nightmares. Now unwillingly married to one of the city’s biggest drug lords, she finds moments of freedom in a small-time private eye business, which she hides in fear of her sadistic father-in-law.
Air’s little brother disappears off his back porch and the Red Dogs are framed for it. With the help of a mysterious gentleman investigator hired by the Red Dogs to learn the truth, Jacqui pushes her abilities to their limits in hope of rescuing the child before the kidnapper disposes of him.
Dark, gritty, multi-layered Victorian-inspired detective neo-noir that keeps the reader guessing to the very end.
Mrs. Jacqueline Spadros, wife to the Spadros crime family heir, is secretly a private investigator. While in disguise, she’s been called to a shop in the slums …
“This is a recent picture?”
Mrs. Bryce nodded. “Yes, mum, taken before Yuletide. Maybe three weeks ago? Right after we moved here.”
“And you’re sure he didn’t run off?”
Mrs. Bryce’s brown eyes filled with tears. “No, mum, I swear. David was a good boy, in the midst of his chore-work. ‘Off to sweep the stair,’ he said, ‘I’ll be right back.’ He never came in.”
Thunder pealed. Harsh light illuminated the barren room.
I called myself an investigator, but I investigated minor matters: a missing dog, renters who moved without paying. So this case violated rules I laid for myself. I avoided police affairs …
“I can’t pay you …” Mrs. Bryce said.
… and I didn’t do a case without payment in advance. Not even this one.
“… but I’ll do whatever you like, anything, if you’ll help me.”
I never liked Eleanora. She never liked me. When she realized who I was ….
“Please, mum, I know how it looks. The police said he run off, but I know he was taken and they all ignore me.”
This woman lived most of her life a dozen blocks from this very point, well on the other side of that spiked wrought-iron fence encircling the Pot. Why would she expect the police to help an out-of-town widow with no Family connections and no bribe money? Had she really forgotten?
My borrowed corset pinched at the hips; it chafed with every move. I wanted to change into my own clothes, get away from this room full of bad memories and guilt.
I regarded the portrait, feeling melancholy: David looked just like him. “Show me where you last saw the boy.”
The Bryce’s back stair appeared much like any two blocks from the Pot: rickety wooden steps with rusty metal banisters leading down to a rat-infested alley.
Clouds loomed dark across the sky. The only real light came from an oil lamp far down the alley to our right. We took refuge from the downpour under the eaves, out of the wind.
A dark figure moved in the shadows twenty yards to our left. Something about him frightened me. I hoped the rain would hide our words and send him away.
“When your boy disappeared, did you find anything amiss?”
“Nothing at all. Everything was as it should be, except I found his little broom on the ground,” her voice broke, “and him gone.”
I surveyed the alley. It appeared normal … except …
I crossed towards a red spot on the far wall, near waist level. “Was this here before he went missing?”
“No, mum, at least, I don’t think so.”
I leaned over to examine the spot, Tenni’s corset stabbing at my midsection. A solid red silhouette of a dog, ink-stamped onto the wall.
The tower clock chimed three. The man began walking towards us.
Uncaged Review: This book is marketed as a futuristic post-apocalyptic, steampunk but for me personally, it reads more like an older Victorian-Gothic time. It doesn’t really give me a real sense of steampunk, only in small doses, like a domed city and inventors. Nor does it really give me a sense of a futuristic world, as after whatever catastrophe hit the planet – which I never learned, the people seemed to go backwards in their ways of life. I couldn’t actually believe that part of it so much, as what was learned in our day and age, would not have been lost, and here, it seems like people lost their knowledge of things like diabetes calling it the sugar disease.
Once you get past that issue, the storyline is very good. Very suspenseful, and the author truly digs out a well thought out world that is intricate and consistent. In this domed city of Bridges, the city is divided into four sections, each controlled by a crime family. Each of these quadrants have the family’s rich estates, and slum areas that are protected by the family they serve. In the middle, is the Pot, which is full of crime, brothels and the poorest of the poor. Jacquie – the voice of this story – is taken from the Pot as a young girl, set up to marry Tony, the son of the crime boss in one of the areas, and that’s where this story is set, after she is already 22 yrs. old and married to Tony. Jacqueline fancies herself a private investigator of sorts, and when a small boy is kidnapped, she goes to great lengths to find out what happened and to get the boy back to his mother. This is a dangerous mission, and could cost her the reputation of her Family and her life.
This is where the very intricate story shines. The work that she does, and the secrecy in what she does, from disguises and working with people she doesn’t even know if she can trust, turns this into a very good mystery. It does tend to get a bit confusing, as there are a lot of characters to keep track of, but the author helps out by giving you a rundown in the back of the book, a sort of who’s who.
It’s easy to read, with a good storyline and very nicely descriptive places. The ending didn’t really give a perfect answer to the mystery of the story, only a partial. You’ll have to wait to find out more in the next book, but it’s definitely worth the read for those who love a good mystery.