on 28 August 2012
Megan Abbott's thing is 1950's noirs with a female twist, and this is the best one I've read so far. A young woman is taken under the wing of an older, experienced dame and taught the ropes in making pick-ups from casinos and operating smoothly in a tough world. Within weeks she's addicted to the seedy thrills and the danger of it all, and absolutely worships her mentor, but then she meets the wrong man...
Abbott's fiddling with the gender of the form really pays dividends in this novel. We're of course used - from numerous private eye novels and gangster films - to seeing these locales and scenarios as part of a man's world, but here it is rendered utterly feminine. It's still a hard book, with lots of violence and death and the threat of more to come - but it is completely from a woman's point of view. As such it revels more in the jewellery and the clothes and the good looking dudes than is usually the case. It's an exhilarating read, as the young neophyte opens her eyes to a world which is dripping with sex, tawdry glamour and intoxicating danger.
I particularly liked that the relationship between the two central characters is so tantalisingly complex - seeming to be motherly, sisterly and Sapphic all at once. And that even at the satisfying conclusion there are still questions to be asked about it. This is a really sharp and smart novel, Abbott's eye for detail and the weaknesses of her characters combine with a well carved plot to create a pacy and genuinely surprising thriller.
on 12 August 2012
Abbott's writing is in the best traditions of noir - dark, edgy, atmospheric, lyrical. The prose is excellent, the narrative taut, and the dialogue snappy. Queenpin is essentially an in-depth character study of two women and their evolving relationship, and Abbott excels at bringing both women fully to life and one is drawn fully into their worlds. My only quibble is that the book really fails to broaden out beyond the master and apprentice relationship to further contextualise them in the world in which they operate; it would have been good to know more about the nitty-gritty of their jobs, the grip of the mob on the city, the local politics and law, their personal histories, and so on. Abbott has pared the book back as about as far as it can go without losing the essential plot, as a result, the book is quite slight at 180 pages.
on 31 July 2015
Megan Abbott is my hero. This book changed how I see noir, and I bought her three other noir novels (Die A Little, Bury Me Deep, and The Song Is You) just on the back of this one, no hesitation. I've never read female characters like these. The voices are so authentic yet complex, meaty and gritty with such substance. I recommend this book to everyone I can, even buying them their own copies to get them to read it. Queenpin is the final word in any argument that noir doesn't work with female protagonists. I wish I could read it again and again.
on 11 May 2016
This book is amazing. I can't praise it enough. It's an absolute triumph for voice, style and craft – and it's packed with the darkest, richest noir passion. If you like a classic, hardboiled noir voice, read this book. If you want to learn to write like a true master, read this book. In terms of sheer craft, 99% of writers can't get within a million miles of Megan Abbott.