Queenpin by Megan Abbott

(No Series)

A young woman hired to keep the books at a down-at-the-heels 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. Notoriously cunning and ruthless, Gloria shows her eager young protegee the ropes, ushering her into a glittering demimonde of late-night casinos, racetracks, betting parlors, inside heists, and big, big money. Suddenly, the world is at her feet—as long as she doesn't take any chances, like falling for the wrong guy. As the roulette wheel turns, both mentor and protegee scramble to stay one step ahead of their bosses and each other

This modern day noir-style novel packs a good punch of traditional Hard-case style triumph. Gloria is eager to follow in her protege's footsteps in the world of crime (money collection, gambling) and make a name for herself as she climbs up this bizarre ladder.

I didn't care as much for the first half as it was a bit dull. Gloria isn't a sympathetic character and it was written in the typical noir style and a bit distant without much emotion. The writing style worked well for this type of book and that didn't pause reading; it was a build-up of the protege-student experience. The second half took off with a healthier speed, climax and suspense was tightly orchestrated to keep you caring once this happened, and the ending was a - if not expected - satisfying, bitter finale.

It was hard to hold as much emotional investment as I'd have liked since Gloria just wasn't that likeable much of the time. Her "teacher" wasn't either but at least she was an interesting person to read about. Her motivations were explained primarily through dialogue and she possessed an enviable sense of style. There are numerous protagonists and villains working against the girls in this book, although of course in this style of work they are really their own worst enemies. 

Violence is seriously high for this kind of story, a brutal and gritty world portrayed realistically. Sex isn't so detailed that's it's literary porn, but it's established and present, dirty, and lust-filled. Queenpin is a completely feminized crime noir work that showcases strong, if not "good", women who are making themselves strong and survivable, taking what they can and going as far as possible with it.

The big secrets of this and almost every book/movie of it's type is not to be led down the road to damnation and ruin by others. Depend on yourself and your own strengths and values. A bad turn takes place as Gloria falls into the trap so many do - following the wrong man and wrapping her head around the wrong things.

An odd story, and it's worth reading for that point alone. It's a bizarre psychological twist into the minds of an unusual person in a classic age. Worth reading, it just didn't blow me away.

   Book Quotes:

“You have to decide who you are, little girl, she told me once. Once you know that, everyone else will too.”

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