Red Queen by Juan Gómez-Jurado

Reviewed by Ian Lipke

Juan Gómez-Jurado is a new writer to my stable. I was impressed. The publisher has made a feature of the fact that the writer is new and exciting, a practice that makes me look askance at the claims for the merits of the book. In this case, however, the inflated descriptions are justified.

The writer has had no purpose other than to entertain. The story is told in an electrifying fashion so that I found myself searching for more of the book’s treasures as the long hours of the night were consumed and I knew that I would be weary and grumpy next day. It is not so much the events that comprise the story – it rarely is – but the mode of presentation, and the tone with which the writer addresses the reader. One reaches the end of a chapter, waiting on edge for the next shoe to drop… only to find that the author has switched focus to a separate part of the story. Yet the whole is a totality, a neatly-tied-off unit as all is resolved.

“You’ve never met anyone like her” is the blurb designed to gather my interest. With this view before me, I opened the book waiting for some answers to be supplied. Such an interesting way to introduce a character. The technique is to supply a list of things the female character does not do. What is the mystery, what the source of her powers? However, try as the author might to justify the advertising, the lead character is a bit pedestrian. It is not so much in character definition as it is in presentation of plot, on knowing when to release information and when to withhold that little snippet of interest that makes this author a good one. This author knows how to present a story. It’s a matter of ten out of ten for craftsmanship. Her skill in telling appears as early as the first few lines when the sound of unfamiliar footsteps on page 2 interrupts a bizarre ritual. Again, we learn that Jon Guiterrez doesn’t like stairs, his reason perfectly valid. We learn why only after a string of other reasons have been presented and discarded.

The garish colours that flood the cover pages are usually enough to lead my interest elsewhere. Peering at the cover my mind wandered across a number of scenarios from Queen Cleopatra of the Nile to a modern young woman with a bad case of sunburn. I felt the author was on much firmer ground when she described the multi-level nature of Madrid. This is a city that the author introduces as a well-known friend, a place she has lived in, a place that responds well to the intimate touch. A city is more likely to come to life, to present itself as a brooding, lived in place when an author grasps its essentials with the hands of familiarity.

An additional strength in the author’s writing tool bag is the appropriateness of dialogue. The author’s characters inhabit her mind. “I’m getting my vocational qualification.”/”No shit.”/”I swear I am.” These are people used to speaking like this, and their speech is congruent with their regular lives.

This story has much to commend it and I have no hesitation in awarding it the gold star.

Red Queen


by Juan Gómez-Jurado

Pan Macmillan

ISBN: 978 152909 364 3

$34.99; 432 pp

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