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The Queen of Diamonds: Part 2 of the Red Dog Conspiracy

by Patricia Loofbourrow

She just wanted an easy case ...

Private eye Jacqueline Spadros, recovering from her harrowing experiences the week prior, wants nothing more than a simple, straightforward case - preferably one the Spadros Family won't find out about. Aristocratic jewel merchant Dame Anastasia Louis, aka "The Queen of Diamonds," seems to be offering the perfect arrangement.

But Jacqui can't leave the madman "Black Jack" Diamond's crimes unpunished. And the more she learns, the more she begins to believe that this particular job wasn't such a good idea after all ...

Cover Artists:
Tropes: Abandoned Place, Antihero, Conspiracy, Dystopian Governments, Fish Out of Water, Found Family, Reluctant Hero, Secret Society, Wise Mentor
Word Count: 75000
Setting: Far future North America
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Tropes: Abandoned Place, Antihero, Conspiracy, Dystopian Governments, Fish Out of Water, Found Family, Reluctant Hero, Secret Society, Wise Mentor
Word Count: 75000
Setting: Far future North America
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Reviews:Margaret Fisk on Tales to Tide You Over wrote:

This is the second in the Red Dog Conspiracy series I have read, and I’ll tell you up front it didn’t go the way I’d expected from where The Jacq of Spades ends. I’d thought to see more of the gearing underpinning this society, but while there is mention of that story thread, it’s not the focus of The Queen of Diamonds.

Instead of delving deeply into the gears beneath the Bridges, this book is all about court politics, though in a more modern fashion than high fantasy. Conspiracy hobbyists should love the Bridges because everyone is plotting against everyone. This is definitely noir, including the traditional breaking of the narrative timeline. People are doing nasty things for sometimes known, and sometimes not yet uncovered, reasons. It’s what makes the world turn for the Families, who are in an uneasy alliance with shifting loyalties, cease fires, and outright aggression.

The Queen of Diamonds leaps into the latest puzzle from the start, with short reminders to help continuing readers and provide enough relevant background to ground readers jumping into the overall story here.

While clearly, at least to my mind, a middle novel, The Queen of Diamonds offers its own, internal story that involves folks we already know and some new ones. It opens some doors into the depths of treachery among the families yet closes none despite solving the main mystery.

This book is not for the lighthearted full as it is of backstabbing and double dealing, but it’s fascinating in a car wreck sort of way. Jacqui is an unwilling participant who is held trapped by bonds of affection as much as blackmail, but especially in this one, she seems to be learning the extent of her power might not be as limited as she thinks.

I’d hoped to see more of the inventors, as I mentioned above, and that didn’t happen to any significant degree, but there’s more going on here than even an intrepid investigator can uncover.

Nor is Jacqui on an intriguing case during the book, or so she thinks. In the course of something simple, she discovers greater plots and mysteries than she had expected. We get to sit on her shoulder as she pieces things together, which is fun. She doesn’t see the whole of it yet, and so neither do we, but she’s smart and clever enough to solve one major riddle.

As I mentioned above, bonds of affection are also in play during The Queen of Diamonds, from friendships all the way to love. It’s a tribute to the conspiracy aspects that I don’t trust the folks Jacqui does and I think, in part, she’s making a huge mistake. At the same time, she’s as torn as I am, so who knows what will come next? I do wish she’d come clean with her husband Tony about the investigative sideline, but I understand her reasons not to, which is part of the car wreck feeling when she is doing what she must but I keep thinking it will end poorly for all involved.

Definitely noir, definitely intriguing, The Queen of Diamonds offers a tangled, complicated society held together by money, greed, and underhanded dealings while on the surface it is all pretty dresses, balls, and rigid classism. Even a simple dinner party is full of minefields as you will soon discover if you join in a walk on the dark side of the Bridges.

Leslie Conzatti on The Upstream Writer wrote:

Holy moly! The plot thickens, and it is GLORIOUS!

Loofbourrow teases out clues and plot twists in a novel replete with Victorian graces and social norms--everything through the eyes of a societal "outcast" married into the ruling family, so she is just as much learning about the expectations that come with being a gentrified lady as we are.

The continuity is amazing. It's been quite a while since I read JACQ OF SPADES, but as the action picks up right where the last one left off, I feel as if no time has passed--I've only somehow forgotten the odd detail here and there! But even that wasn't a huge issue, as the story sucked me right back in anyway!
Jacqui is trying not to cross her husband or step on any toes--the numerous run-ins with Roy in the first book have her good and scared... but also, she's realizing that all Tony needs is a bit of a push and he can be a different man from his father, though they are of the same blood. She's doing her best to stay on Tony's good side and maintain his trust--but the secret activities and investigations she's trying to follow are rapidly spiraling out of control!

I deeply admire the way Loofbourrow sets up her mystery. We get to know the characters on a deeper, more personal level. They’re not just names for different archetypes in a play; they are real people, swept into real conflict. I still can’t figure out who the Red Dog conspirators are, nor why they are killing certain people just when Jacqui gets close to having the information she needs. I am in awe at the depth, breadth, and complexity of all her characters: the titular “Queen of Diamonds” who isn’t at all what she seems; the Kerr siblings, who have been close friends with Jacqui, yet there are still secrets held between them; even the enigmatic Blaze Rainbow has more and more about him that he has kept to himself. Even Jacqui grows and deepens in her character and personality.

The magic continues, and the quality never lags. QUEEN OF DIAMONDS is a stellar, thrilling mystery, definitely worth a *****5 STAR***** rating, and an Upstream Writer Certified HEARTILY Recommended endorsement. If you like gritty, noir steampunk with dynamic, realistic characters, and don’t mind some suggestive scenes or intense peril—then The Red Dog Conspiracy is a jewel of a series!

The second of a 13-part series. You are highly advised to read the series in order.

About the Author

Patricia Loofbourrow, MD is a NY Times and USA Today best-selling SFF and non-fiction writer, PC gamer, ornamental food gardener, fiber artist, and wildcrafter who loves power tools, dancing, genetics and anything to do with outer space. She was born in southern California and has lived in Chicago and Tokyo. She currently lives in Oklahoma with her husband and three grown children.