Megan Abbott’s third novel, Queenpin (2007) surpasses her excellent previous books, The Song Is You (2005) and Die A Little (2007). She has since published another six crime novels.
The Queenpin of the title is a mob moll called Gloria Denton, who’s ice-cold, calculating and exceedingly good at her business, having been at the top of her game for a couple of decades, reliably transporting stolen diamonds, race-track winnings, fixing the odds, all for the bosses.
Maybe because age or the business is catching up with her, Gloria takes the narrator, an unnamed young woman under her wing, rescuing her from hum-drum book-keeping in a lowly nightclub and trains her as a go-between.
As we’ve come to expect by now, Abbott gets under the skin of the narrator with ease. This is all so believable, almost like a confessional, with plenty of wisecracks and slick one-liners and period description.
Slowly, Gloria’s tuition pays off and our narrator looks, sounds and acts like a younger version of the Queenpin. But then things start to slide into noir territory as the protégé falls heavily for a loser, a guy who is never going to win the big score, no matter how often he tells himself he will. From there, the tension mounts.
Then there’s a shocking murder, a disinterment, and more than one betrayal along the way, told with grim precision and word-economy.
Riveting, page-turning stuff.