Title: Play The Red Queen
Author: Juris Jurjevics (published posthumously)
Genre: Suspense/Crime/Historical Fiction
Publisher: No Exit Press
Publication Date: 12th November 2020 (paperback)
Vietnam, 1963. A female Viet Cong assassin is trawling the boulevards of Saigon, catching US Army officers off-guard with a single pistol shot, then riding off on the back of a scooter. Although the US military is not officially in combat, sixteen thousand American servicemen are stationed in Vietnam ‘advising’ the military and government. Among them are Ellsworth Miser and Clovis Robeson, two army investigators who have been tasked with tracking down the daring killer.
Set in the besieged capital of a new nation on the eve of the coup that would bring down the Diem regime and launch the Americans into the Vietnam War, Play the Red Queen is a tour-de-force mystery-cum-social history, breathtakingly atmospheric and heartbreakingly alive with the laws and lawlessness of war.
So, I have to confess to knowing relatively little about the Vietnam War but I was so intrigued by the description of Play The Red Queen plus that incredible cover that I decided to give it a chance and I’m extremely glad I did. The story follows two American army investigators who are attempting to track down a terrifyingly skilled female Viet Cong assassin. Their investigation runs alongside the political shifts and underhanded machinations taking place in this intense moment in history.
The most impressive thing about this compelling mystery is how atmospheric and totally authentic it feels. You really do feel like you are experiencing Saigon in 1963 alongside the characters – everything is so vividly described which is probably due to the fact that the author himself served in Vietnam. This authenticity makes Play The Red Queen so rich in detail and information that it feels like a true story, despite being fiction. I have to be honest and say that at times it is quite a challenge to keep all the different players in this very complicated place straight in your head, especially if you are not at all familiar with the military or the war in Vietnam but it is well worth making the effort. The story moves along at a cracking pace, keeping the reader on their toes throughout and there is so much going on that you never quite know which direction things will suddenly take which I loved.
I really enjoyed reading this brutal, intelligent and gripping book which truly captures what it must be like to live in a place so fraught and unpredictable. Sadly the author passed away before publication but he has left us with an unflinching look into a controversial and complex slice of history which I absolutely recommend.
Thank you so much to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me on this tour and organising it. I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.