Review: Killer Queen by T.S. Hunter from Red Dog Press

The show must go on… Soho Noir five. The ever-expanding world of Joe and Russell takes in London theatre, backstage shenanigans, and a new ally in the fight against Skinner!!

Available to buy directly from Red Dog Press

Our fifth visit to the world of Joe and Russell’s Soho, Killer Queen, is set against a backdrop of increasing homophobia in Britain at the end of the 80’s, enshrined in law by the insidious Section 28 of the Local Government Act of 1988, which sought to make criminals out of teachers who dared to talk to their students about LGBTQ+ issues. Although no teacher was ever prosecuted under it, the fear that it engendered kept these issues out of schools until it was eventually revoked on September 18th 2003, when the Local Government Act 2003 received royal assent, with Section 28 no longer included, finally becoming law on November 18th of that year. Take a moment to digest that last date. LGBTQ+ teaching was illegal into the new millennium. Try and process the damage that did, the full extent I don’t think will ever really be known.

Back to our story, and we find Joe now working as personal assistant for Cameron Beattie, a successful and respected theatre director. Which is how he ends up finding the body of an up and coming actress in a suspiciously lavish flat, and once again gets pulled into the investigation to prevent the ever-useless skinner going after the wrong person.

T.S Hunters writing has gotten increasingly confident as the series has gone on. The world he has created has grown, with ever more character’s being introduced, with that confidence. The writing on display here is calm and assured, creating an atmosphere that really embodies the notion of cosy crime. For us Brits, I think using the pub as a main locale is a deceptively effective storytelling tool, deployed to great effect in creating that cosy world we recognise. Right down to having a favorite table. We have favorite tables in our local pub too, and in winter there is something wonderfully cosy about a pint in your pub at your table.

Despite the cosy feel though, there is still a sense of danger in the way Joe is happy to throw himself into investigations, and we mustn’t forget that most of these books do involve a death. I’ve also enjoyed throughout the series, the underlying political points being made. There is a social conscience to these stories and on a subject close to my heart, which continues to resonate as the series builds towards its conclusion.

Only one more to go, and a few things yet to be resolved. Will Skinner get his much-deserved comeuppance? I do so hope so. Will things pan out for Joe and his love life? Will there be a second series set in the 90’s? Some of these questions I’m hoping will be resolved in early December when we get hold of the final installment of Soho Noir, Small Town Boy.

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