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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2007
Die A Little is still my favorite, but this book is a sleek dark rocket. I could not put it down. When my husband read Die A Little, he said he loved it, and would read anything else Megan Abbott wrote, but that he wished James M. Cain had done a pass over it. He got his wish in this book. Lean and mean, but still displaying Abbott's own poetic voice, Queenpin is a knockout noir, taut and twisted, neon surface glitter hiding subterranean depths.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2008
I have never read much noir, but "Queenpin" was recommended to me by Christa Faust, who wrote the wonderful and gritty "Money Shot," which I also loved.

"Queenpin" blew me away. From the opening line, Abbott takes you into the depths of her main character's mind, heart and soul and holds you hostage for the entire book.

I echo the comment made by another reviewer here: I want to read a prequel featuring Gloria Denton!

I'm hooked!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2012
Readers of popular fiction can tell from browsing a few pages whether the novel will be an entertaining read. The author either has or lacks the ability to string words together so that they "sound" right -- just as a musician has the talent to string notes together so that it sounds satisfying. A talented writer has an "ear" for words, especially dialogue, just as the musician has an ear for music, and obviously the actual organs we call ears are not as involved in these activities as is some neighborhood in the brain.

There are a lot of weak imitators of classic 1950s pulp fiction, but Megan Abbott has mastered the style perfectly. Short, declarative sentences. Sentence fragments. Best of all are the clever turns of phrase:
"Cut the theatrics, flannel mouth." (pg.94)
"Too stupid to be scared." (pg.6)

When the Queenpin is presented with the narrator, she asks skeptically, "Who's the lollypop?"

For my personal taste, I enjoy the novels of Megan Abbott, because the situations and characters are plausible -- unlike modern techno-thrillers -- but more than that, Megan Abbott has the "ear."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2008
I've read all three of Ms Abbott's novels now. She is a quick read and will not strain your brain. However, her recollection of the time about which she writes is a delight. She also writes in a manner tough enough to invoke early Spillane and his peers (if he has any). The switch to dangerous females in lead roles is also quite fun. I read a lot of modern mystery writers, i.e. Fairstein, Scottoline, Barr, Henry, Stabenow, Graves, etc and Megan Abbott's perspective is refreshing. Her writing is crisp and moves along very nicely and easily holds the reader's attention. Give her a try; you won't regret it. Just remember, if you are looking for complex plot structure and deep detailed character development, go elsewhere. This is about scheming and action. Delightful to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2010
I am, in large part, a fan of long, sprawling, adventurous types of stories. Maybe it's because that constitutes the bulk of what I read that I'm so impressed by a hardboiled, pulp-type novel done well: because it manages to pack so much into so little space.

Coming in at a mere 180 pages, Queenpin by Megan Abbott is a frightening, violent, atmospheric little book that really won't let you go. You can finish it in an afternoon... and honestly, if you've got the free afternoon I don't see why you'd have it any other way.

The major virtue of Queenpin, in its way, actually reminds me a good deal of Walter Mosley's Devil In a Blue Dress. Each book somewhat co-opts the style of older crime novels, but adds an element that wouldn't really have been explored fairly in most books from the original time period. (Race in Mosley's tale, the role of women in Abbot's.) This serves to give each book a sort of modern spin on things, but not to the point of feeling shoe-horned in. Nothing's worse than when an author's work screams: "Look at my strong female characters! Aren't they great?!"

The female leads in Queenpin aren't one-note femme fatales, but they are as believably tough, crooked, strong, frightening, and weak as any male character. The unnamed lead character/narrator even finds herself prey to the same kind of ruining lust as a male noir lead.

Essentially, that main character finds herself taken under the wing of high-up female criminal who's been around since the 20's, (the book is set roughly in the early 60's) where she gets her requisite taste for the high life, etc. Then, she goes and falls for the wrong man. It really is the classic setup with the genders reversed, and she's never even really that dedicated. She recognizes Vic Riordan for what he is-a pathetic chiseler, the kind of sap that she suckers day in and day out, but she can't keep away from him anyway. Unreasoning lust works that way, and it certainly doesn't come across any worse than (again) the mail noir leads who go to the ends of the earth for the same thing.

Then, while it's telling the basic noir story (and telling so very, very well, by the way) it gets to where the end would normally be... but only halfway through the book. It's riveting.

Queenpin is a classic crime novel ride through and through. Twists, turns, gore, dealings, and a lot of dry wit. The major characters are fleshed out surprisingly well in very little space, and the author evokes old masters without losing her voice (although she may come close a few times). It plows forward on the strength of its characters, instead of unbelievable twists, and comes all nice and wrapped up in one of the best covers this side of Hard Case Crime. All in all, one of the better short, dirty, inner-monologue-laden hardboiled books that you can get your hands on for a few days.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2012
I picked this book up because I've been wanting to read a noir style novel for some time now. I was also drawn to it because the main characters are female which seems to be rare in this genre.

Abbott's writing is excellent and quickly pulls you into the story and the world. As you read the concise language and wording makes you feel of that era. I found myself hearing the characters in voices similar to 1940s black & white noir films. The way they spoke was perfect without being too exaggerated or phony.

The main character is a young woman who is drawn to this shadowy world and can't resist its allure. She is taken under the wing of Gloria Denton and is a fast learner. But then she meets a man who even she knows is trouble but she's helpless to resist him. Although she's clever, she can't seem to untangle herself and it's like watching a car crash in slow motion because you know it won't end well.

Still the reading experience was amazing and I really enjoyed having a glimpse into that world. Abbott does such a great job of creating the atmosphere and showing all the characters without revealing too much. I can't wait to read more books like this and pretty much anything else Abbott has written.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2012
Overall, I loved this book. The plot and character development kept pulling me deeper into the book. I liked the nameless narrator throughout, although I confess I don't really know why! She has quite an appetite for illegal activity and self-destruction at the hands of a worthless man. Like other reviewers, I too would like to have known more about the narrator's motivations. What is it about her that draws her deeper into this world, makes her like rough, kinky (we assume) sex with a guy she knows is a loser (but doesn't know just how low he is until it's too late) and who doesn't care for her as a person, lets her believe that Gloria actually has some class? That's why I didn't give the book five stars. But I was rooting for this kid during the entire book and thought, "Yeah, girl!" upon reading the final sentence.

I'd love to chat with Meghan Abbott about this book. Why is the narrator nameless? Is it really set in Vegas? It seems a little small-time for Vegas. Where are the narrator's sisters? Doesn't she ever talk to her old man? What happened in her childhood that made her so unconcerned about her family, so reckless about her own safety and future? Or was she just born that way? I would have loved more background. But still, this is an excellent tale about--let's face it--a bunch of grifters looking out for one thing only: themselves. Some of them occasionally show a glimmer of humanity, which helped glue me to the book because I wasn't sure at first whose was genuine and whose was self-serving, especially Gloria's. (Gloria: What a character!) I've read all of Abbott's noir novels now, and I think she's great. "The Song Is You" is my favorite.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2012
QUEENPIN was my first introduction to Megan Abbott, based on a Kemper review of said author, not said novel, but it certainly won't be my last. The voice carried me like a tumbleweed in the middle of New Mexico. It sang like a blue canary in the middle of spring. It had heart, promise...Well, you get the idea.

The unnamed narrator proved every bit as powerful as she did mysterious. She jumped up on stage, fully exposed, front and center, with hardly a stitch on her, and proceeded to take on all comers. She had guts, panache, and often a clever way with words. She showed first-hand why noir novels can be such powerful reads. While we saw the other characters through her eyes, they were fully fleshed out as well.

The story was raw, exposed, and everything a great noir should be. I don't know if I'd call QUEENPIN great, as it had a few flaws, like all the characters within the confines of the novel, but it was a damn fine read.

The storyline clipped along at a thoroughbred pace, and like the main character, I raced rather dramatically toward the ending. As for the ending, it may not have been a complete surprise, but it wrapped up the story rather nicely. If you like noir, especially with a female lead, you may want to hop on the Megan Abbott bandwagon. And have your red flag ready, you're probably going to need it.

Robert Downs
Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2014
This novel was a great change of pace for me. The narrator is a young woman from a small, undistinguished city who gets a job keeping the books at a small casino and quickly uses her looks and intelligence to start moving up in the underworld.

Her sponsor is Gloria Denton, a legend in this noir world: closing on middle age, but still beautiful -- and even more smart and dangerous. Our narrator idolizes Denton and wants to prove herself worthy of her attention and perhaps one day becoming her equal. Denton herself, tough as nails though she is, appears to genuinely like her apprentice, taking pleasure in teaching her how to dress and telling her what she needs to know to thrive in gangland.

But, because this is a noir, trouble comes in the form of a member of the opposite sex. Soon passion, lies, and violence complicate the relationship between mistress and apprentice, and our narrator has to make life or death choices about where her loyalty lies.

The book is well-written, and I didn't even notice until I was 2/3 of the way through that we never learn the narrator's name. Others address her with nicknames and she never shares the truth with us. Which only makes sense. You never know who to trust in this world.

I'm definitely going to check out Megan Abbot's other noir novels.
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on February 7, 2012
The noir mimicry is near perfect in this modern noir that is set in the fifties in Las Vegas but is knowingly subverted by inverting the usual gender roles and stereotypes. A young woman, keeping the books in a seedy club is rescued and mentored by a woman who has been in the know since the days of Bugsy Segal, the infamous Gloria Denton. The nameless young woman gets a thorough tutelage in all things financially mercenary as well as how to hold and carry herself in the crime world and how to spot the grift.

And then she meets the man that tempts her to betray her mentor and herself with predictable results. I can't fault Abott's writing or her mimicry or even her plot, but Queenpin felt too aware of itself to me. Rather than being one of those dark dispatches from the underworld that characterizes old and new noir, Queenpin felt like an exercise in revealing the ultimate silliness of all those femme fatales and the chumps who loved them by making a transparant homme fatale. Not that this is a bad mark to shoot for it just fell a little flat for me, thought rather than felt. That said, Megan Abott is still a very interesting writer and Queenpin is still worth a look especially for fans of noir both old and new.
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