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By the author of Dare Me and The End of Everything

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 protege 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 protege scramble to stay one step ahead of their bosses and each other.

180 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

Megan Abbott

68 books5,531 followers
Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of the novels Die a Little, Queenpin, The Song Is You, Bury Me Deep, The End of Everything, Dare Me, The Fever, You Will Know Me and Give Me Your Hand.

Abbott is co-showrunner, writer and executive producer of DARE ME, the TV show adapated from her novel. She was also a staff writer on HBO's THE DEUCE. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Believer and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Born in the Detroit area, she graduated from the University of Michigan and received her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University. She has taught at NYU, SUNY and the New School University and has served as the John Grisham Writer in Residence at The University of Mississippi.

She is also the author of a nonfiction book, The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir, and the editor of A Hell of a Woman, an anthology of female crime fiction. She is currently developing two of her novels, Dare Me and The Fever, for television.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 482 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
June 24, 2018

megan freaking abbott - i knew i wanted to read you for a reason! and before you ask - noooo this is most definitely not YA, despite my vow to only read YA until the paper is due. but greg borrowed this from the library, and i really wanted to read it, so i borrowed it from him and here we are. do not give this to a teenage girl. it would be disastrous.

this book is old school noir written with a contemporary sensibility: all the trappings are there in the lingo and the characters' costumings, but this is some excellently violent shit right here. and i haven't read a lot of noir, not classic stuff anyway, but my understanding was that it pulled its punches a little bit; that there was a lot more implied than explicitly stated; that it stayed a little classy.for example, i don't think dashiell hammett ever used the word "cocksucker."

not so here. or at least the violence is explicit. the violence is, quite literally, wallowed in. the sex bits are more implicit; all the vocabulary of lust is evident, and the sex is consensually violent, but only hinted at. there are no bedroom scenes as such, not the "sex is violent" of that little ditty:"showed me everybody naked and disfigured, nothing's shocking," but there is definitely some roughness here, and it leaves its mark.

i really really enjoyed this book.

and that doesn't make me a sicko, although basically i have just told you i enjoyed a rough-sex-and-killing book. but this is still a highly feminized noir. these dames are amazing characters, and although they are not soft and polite like good girls should be (wink), there is such an amazing portrayal of female strength and sensuality at work here.

gloria denton is a legend in the criminal underworld. getting on in her years (in terms of this kind of career, anyway - she is about forty), she spots our (i believe, unnamed) narrator and rescues her from a life of secretarial skills and pot roast dinners and makes her her protégée, introducing her to the criminal underbelly of easy money and unsavory characters, all the while teaching her how to be a tough impenetrable obelisk; to maintain her reputation and avoid just being an arm-candy moll. she teaches her real power, and how to play both sides of cool seduction and noli me tangere.

but kids today, or even then, just don't listen.

our heroine was already on her way to becoming involved in the game, but she was only dabbling in it, in the employ of some pretty inexperienced players:

it was ledge-crawling for the slickest of operators, writing a numbers book. but for schmoes like jerome and arthur is was suicide. if i'd been around the rackets longer, i'd have told them to find another patsy. i was about to put myself on the chopping block but was too raw to know it. too stupid to be scared.

but gloria sweeps in with her impeccably tailored sharkskin suits, sees her potential, and nurtures it, setting her up in a swanky apartment and teaching her the ins and outs of the game, all the while monitoring her for skill and loyalty.

but there is always a man.
a man who is totally the wrong man.

and our young grifter knows he is the wrong man, but cannot resist, and that is the best part of this book. she knows from the moment she lays eyes on him that he will be her downfall, but she cannot help herself, and it is her inner thoughts about this uncontrollable lust even while knowing how it will all play out* that makes for the most compelling psychological study i have read.

it is a truly accomplished piece of writing that transcends the genre. although i suppose greg would be a better judge of that, since he is more familiar with the genre overall. i am so going to read all her other noir novels, and have just bought her new, non-noir novel, and i strongly suggest checking her out, if you like good books.

*well, maybe not exactly how it will play out - yeesh!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Delee.
243 reviews1,106 followers
February 20, 2017

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When the unnamed narrator- a young woman in her 20's- first sees Gloria Denton, her initial impression is...

I want the legs

...but really- she wants just about everything Gloria has, and lucky for her- Gloria is willing to teach the little lollipop everything she knows.

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Gloria Denton is a legend. She knows everybody who is anybody in the Las Vegas world of organised crime, and while making her rounds- Gloria spots our young protagonist working at The TEE HEE bar and betting center as a bookkeeper/accountant- a naive bookkeeper/accountant who has been asked to "cook the books" for her two rather stupid bosses-Jerome and Arthur. Gloria decides to overlook the young woman's wrong doing- Jerome and Arthur aren't so lucky.

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When the young woman asks why Gloria decided to forgive her indiscretion- Ms. Denton responds-

You looked like you knew a thing or two about a thing or two, but were ready to learn a whole lot more.

...and learn a whole lot more she does.

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Gloria takes her new protégée under her wing and teaches her everything she needs to know about "The Business". New apartment, new clothes, new look- and Ms. Denton's pupil is ready to hit the casinos, the race tracks, and where ever else her boss wants to send her. Everything is going perfectly until she meets...Vic..

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...and Vic is bad NEWS with a capital N.

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Love this author! Love this genre! Love this book! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! What more is there to say?
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,919 reviews10.6k followers
June 16, 2011
A young woman working as an accountant at a nightclub is taken under the wing of Gloria Denton, a cunning and ruthless mob woman. While Gloria teaches her the ropes, she falls in love with a gambler named Vic. Vic's heavily in debt and has a plan: rip off Gloria Denton!

Megan Abbott knows how to noir it up with the best of them. Queenpin is a twisting tale with a lot of double dealing. The nameless protagonist goes from being an accountant to a runner and beyond. Once the attempt to rip Gloria off goes down, the book kicks into high gear with paranoia and double crosses.

The writing is really good and reminds me of Christa Faust at times. Gloria Denton is a very well realized character. I sure wouldn't want to cross her.

Any complaints? It was too short and the ending was a little too easy. Other than that, it was one hell of a read.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
485 reviews808 followers
September 25, 2016
Queenpin, the third novel by Megan Abbott, won a 2008 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original and a 2008 Barry Award for Best Paperback Novel a year after its publication date. "Novel" is as shady a description as some of the characters Abbott describes; I'd be a sucker for thinking more than 50,000 words are expended in this lurid tale of a nightclub bookkeeper who gets more they bargained for when swept under the wing of a cunning gangster. The novelty here is that the bookkeeper and the gangster are both women, but try as she might to find a compelling story to match her conceit and her delightful gift of language, Abbott left me out to dry.

Set in a city where gambling is legal and the heyday of gangsters Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel seem to have been only twenty years past, our unnamed Narrator introduces herself with the hard-boiled vernacular that distinguished lowlifes played in classic film noir by Humphrey Bogart or Robert Mitchum, whose glib cynicism usually masked deep seeded isolation and fear. Her "old man", a vending machine stocker, finds his daughter a job at one of his stops, the Club Tee Hee. The owners pay their bills and go home to families, but the girl finds the joint to be anything but on the up-and-up when she takes over their books. She loves it.

Where would a twenty-two-year-old kid rather be? Setting the table for a corned beef and cabbage dinner with her old man, forks scraping, moths fluttering against the window, the briny smell from the kitchen sinking into my skin with each tock of the imitation grandfather clock? Or gliding my way through the fuzzy dark of the Tee Hee, vibrating with low, slow jazz, clusters of juniper-breathed men and women touching, hands on lapels, fingers on silk nylons, cigarettes releasing willowy clouds into every acid green banquette? Sure, it was no El Morocco, but in this town, it might as well have been. The place felt alive, I could hear it beating in my chest, between my hips, everywhere. Clock-out time and I never wanted to leave. I'd grin my way into a Tom Collins from Shep, the lantern-jawed bartender and watch from the corner stool, watch everything, eating green cherries, the candied drink soaking into my lips, my tongue.

The girl is on the job less than a week, taking advanced accounting classes at Dolores Grey Business School in the morning and the bus to the Tee Hee in the afternoons, when she sees Gloria Denton for the first time. Coveting the lady's showgirl legs, the bookkeeper observes Gloria ordering a club soda and counting the vig her boss owes before driving off with it in her alpine white El Dorado. The girl learns that Gloria Denton is wife to none, an "IRS agent for the rackets" backed up by the organization and by her own ruthlessness, which according to legend, includes gutting a treacherous stripper named Candy Annie with a straight razor in '48.

Risking his health, the bookkeeper's boss orders her to cook a fake book full of phony bets from the numbers racket he's been reporting to Gloria so he can lay bets on the side and keep everything he expects to win. Gloria spots the incongruity and questions the greenhorn about it, impressed by the girl's loyalty and willingness to get her fingers dirty. Promising to teach her more in a week than she'll learn in twenty years in the classroom, Gloria offers the bookkeeper a job. She advises her protégé to call in sick the day a Molotov cocktail happens to explode inside the club. Next thing she knows, the girl's set up in her own apartment on a scenic side of town and taken shopping for suits.

Gloria quickly promotes the girl from courier to money launderer, tasking her with recycling ill-gotten gains through the racetracks. The rules are straight-forward: Don't mix it up with the regulars. "You don't ever want to be seen with them," she told me. "Eyes are everywhere at the track. Your cherry is our big advantage. Let's keep it intact as long as we can." The heir apparent is also making deliveries to and from the casinos and blossoming in her new job, discovering her confidence. She dresses like Gloria, she begins to make an impression like Gloria and soon, is even tossing back banter like Gloria.

No one ever gave me a hard time, but every night I'd get invitations, either from the casino fixtures, the bulls, or the hard boys at the door. At first, I was too scared even to one-step with them, to give them back a little of their patter. But the better I got, the more I was willing to toss it around. At least with the prettier, slicker ones. I had a weak spot, right off, for the worst of them. The ones that still had faces worth looking at. The ones without the dented noses or cauliflower ears. Mostly, I had it for the cruising gamblers who didn't rate with the big boys, just threw them their money every night like some nonstop tickertape parade. They were the smooth ones and I didn't mind a little dance with them.

While the boss is out of town, Gloria Denton's girl makes a pickup at a new casino operating under Yin's Peking Palace. There, she encounters a gambler with a sharkskin suit and sorrowful eyes named Vic Riordan making a killing at the roulette wheel. Watching Vic blow through his pot, the girl loiters around long enough for him to buy her a drink. "Come on" he said. "Let's get drunk. I want to see you with a hair out of place." The loser loosens something in her, reminds her of the wolf in fairy tales, and soon, red riding hood is racing through the woods to sneak over to Vic's apartment to rub his bare mattress raw.

As her nocturnal activities with Vic get hotter and crazier, the girl starts showing up late for appointments and missing drops. When Gloria spots the bruises Vic left on her protégé's thigh, she gets no answers as to who put them there. When she bumps into him at the track, the girl sneaks off to the jockey quarters with him for a roll in the hay. Vic ultimately admits that he owes thirty grand to Amos Mackey, a big-time loan shark (Mackey had big grins for everybody and could glad-hand it with every gray-suited businessman this side of the chamber of commerce.). Fallen hard, the girl comes up with a scam to help her lover out by robbing Gloria Denton.

Queenpin shares two elements with my previous venture into Megan Abbott's fiction (Dare Me): an impressionable girl's blood pact with an influential mentor through a crime, and delicious language. I'm a sucker for master-pupil stories and while Abbott serves hers strictly thin dish--it's more like the backstory for a bigger crime novel more befitting of its title--I enjoyed watching the Narrator's transformation from ugly duckling to black swan under the training of a woman whose success has only bought her so much in life. Abbott clearly relishes language and both the prose and repartee in this book is a tad dirty and delightful.

"It's too bad you're such a kid. Otherwise, I'd take you home. Mess up that fancy girl posture. Bend you back a little, you know?"

"Who says I'm a baby," I said. "I've been in long pants for years."

"Are you kidding?" He put his hands on me, just above my chest. "I bet I could smell Mama's milk on your breath."

"Come close. I'll open wide and you can see. No milk teeth."

He moved closer and his smile reminded me of the wolf in bedtime stories. When I was a kid, whenever my sisters would tell me fairy tales, running their fingers up my arms and legs, I always felt it for the wolves. Narrow eyes, teeth glittering like a handsaw. The wolves were waiting, but you had to put yourself in a dangerous place first. You had to play you part. I would dream myself into the thicket, swinging a basket, whistling a tune, waiting for the growl, the flash of yellow eyes, the sudden pillage, the blood tear. The wolf got you where it counted.

The deeper Abbott goes into the dark wood, the thinner her trail of bread crumbs gets. Due to the thrift of the novel, she only scratches skin deep on these three characters. I never really believed the girl's lust for Vic Riordan or how easily she'd line up to become a grease spot at the hands of Gloria Denton by double crossing her for him. Abbott writes her skims and scams with confidence and casts both the time and place of her story in lustrous ambiguity, but skimps on the story, which deserved to be drawn out into a longer and tauter cat and mouse game between the two main characters rather than the blood bath it becomes.
Profile Image for Francesc.
390 reviews192 followers
August 7, 2022
Megan Abbott nos traslada a un tiempo indeterminado alrededor de mediados del siglo XX. Casinos, hipódromos, apuestas ilegales, mafiosos y mujeres despampanantes. Estas últimas son las auténticas protagonistas de la novela.
Gloria Denton quiere apartarse de un negocio de apuestas ilegales, pero necesita una socia. Ve algo en una joven y bella contable y la ficha. Enseguida conectan, pero algo pasa entre ellas al cabo de un tiempo. Algo para lo cual una de ellas no está preparada para afrontar.
Hay pocas novelas sobre este tema donde las mujeres sean las protagonistas y no en el sentido más trillado de las típicas mujeres del último mafioso que se presenta en la ciudad. Son mujeres con personalidad, fuertes, que explotan su sexualidad con conocimiento de causa y que deciden qué quieren hacer con ella. Son mujeres poderosas en un mundo de hombres y que supuran poder por todo su cuerpo, a través de sus vestidos, de sus abrigos de visón, de sus joyas, de su caminar.
Es una novela con un ritmo ágil y con unos personajes muy bien caracterizados. Todo en esta novela me recuerda al Chicago, New York o Los Angeles de los años 40 con sus detectives privados, su corrupción y su tufo a tabaco.


Megan Abbott takes us back to an indeterminate time around the middle of the 20th century. Casinos, racetracks, illegal gambling, mobsters and stunning women. The latter are the real protagonists of the novel.
Gloria Denton wants to get out of an illegal gambling business, but she needs a partner. She sees something in a beautiful young accountant and signs her up. They immediately connect, but something happens between them after a while. Something one of them is not ready to face.
There are few novels on this theme where women are the protagonists, and not in the hackneyed sense of the typical wives of the latest mobster to show up in town. They are strong women with personality, who exploit their sexuality with full knowledge of the facts and decide what they want to do with it. They are powerful women in a man's world who ooze power all over their bodies, through their dresses, their mink coats, their jewellery, their walk.
It is a novel with an agile pace and very well characterised characters. Everything in this novel reminds me of the Chicago, New York or Los Angeles of the 1940s with its private detectives, its corruption and its whiff of tobacco.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,814 followers
August 3, 2016
This is the second book I’ve read by Megan Abbott, and she can go ahead and sign me up as member of her fan club.

Set back in the good old days when people still smoked and took a shot a rye every twenty minutes, the unnamed narrator is a young woman who is keeping the books for a small time shady night club. After she helps the owners do some creative Enron-style accounting, she comes to the attention of Gloria Denton.

Gloria is an aging but gorgeous woman who helps manage the rackets in town, and she takes the young bookkeeper under her wing. Soon the narrator is hanging out in casinos, night clubs, and horse racing tracks to pick-up money and perform various other errands for Gloria. Everything is going well until the young lady falls for the exact wrong guy in the form of small time gambler and chronic loser Vic.

This is old school noir with a great feminine twist on it. Abbott’s prose absolutely sings, and the relationships she builds between the narrator and Gloria and Vic are complex and intense. The story that unfolds because of them is first rate.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,493 reviews960 followers
February 28, 2018

"Who is she anyhow?" I asked, that first time. "Whose wife?"
"She's no one's wife," Jerome said, shaking his head. "And she's no moll, never was, not even when she was fresh and tight as Kim Novak."
"What's she, some kind of kingpin?"

Sold as a fine example of hardboiled novel from a daring young writer, "Queenpin" is the second novel by Megan Abbott (after "Dare Me") that I expected to enjoy thoroughly yet left me underwhelmed. The premise is good – take the classical plot of a con game where the rookie learns the ropes from a professional hustler, in this case the gambling racket in a midwestern town, and replace the tough guys with tougher women, showing us that sexism has no place in this subgenre of pulp fiction.

Gloria Denton is the (in)famous lady who rules her queendom with smooth elegance and a cool demeanor. She sees some potential in a young woman who works as an accountant in one of the betting shops she collects protection money from, and she takes her under her wing. If you have seen the movie "All About Eve" you get an idea of what is coming, as the young narrator starts to entertain thoughts of beating the master Gloria at her own game.

As I mentioned, I usually like this sort of story (and movie), but a lot depends in a case like this on the personality of the first person narrator. Considering this young woman that remains without a name in the novel, I tried but I couldn't make myself care what happens to her. I felt like she was reading a script written for somebody else – somebody either more calculated, less irresponsible (reinforcing stereotypes here about a woman's recklessness and irrationality?) or, failing at coldness, somebody with more passion about what she does. She ended up in between, undecided up until the final page which way she leans.

I did read the story through, since it is competently written, with terse sentences and a smattering of slang (even too much old time tough talk occasionally). The plot may be predictable, but it was OK to see it through, like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Yet even here, I felt the story was scripted, with both women acting out of character, especially the experienced Gloria Denton who puts herself in a position of trust with the rookie when everything I knew about her beforehand said she should have been more careful.

I don't want to be nasty about a book I had no problem finishing, but I couldn't help thinking I have stumbled into the wrong kind of seedy bar when I had to look up 'charmeuse' in the dictionary. No, it's not slang. It's another stereotype that lady writers seem unable to skip: telling us everything there is to know about clothes and jewelry.

Charmeuse is a lightweight fabric woven with a satin weave, in which the warp threads cross over four or more of the backing (weft) threads. These float threads give the front of the fabric a smooth finish—lustrous and reflective—whereas the back has a dull finish. It can be made of silk or a synthetic lookalike such as polyester. Silk charmeuse is more expensive and delicate but is softer and a better insulator. Polyester charmeuse is cheaper and can often withstand machine washing, but it does not breathe as well as silk. Charmeuse differs from plain satin in that charmeuse has a different ratio of float (face) threads.

Oh well! I guess I will let a couple of years pass before I give another Megan Abbot book I have on my longlist a try ("Bury Me Deep")
Profile Image for Mara.
400 reviews280 followers
October 16, 2017
With Archer going noir this season, I'm eager to discover how well my Malory Archer::Queenpin comparison holds up...

Bumping because anyone out there loving You Will Know Me should get to experience Abbott going full-blown noir...
"She knew how to end things. She knew how to make it so you'd never forget. Never shake the sight of her in full dark bloom. She was an artist."

That's you, Megan Abbott — that "she" you're describing is you in all of your manipulative, terrible, chill-inducing, wonderful glory.

There aren't so many characters out there like the one's you'll meet in this book. Abbott's eponymous Queenpin isn't who/what she is in spite of being a woman, nor did she sleep her way to the top — nobody gets where she is just by laying down. No, where she is takes being smart, ruthless, and two perfect pointed-heel steps ahead of the game; and, of course, knowing all of the angles.
"In this life," she said, crossing these glorious gams, shimmering in the filmy light, "you can’t let your guard down. If you can control yourself, you can control everyone else."

I know I can't do these characters justice. You have to work hard to pry open the smallest details of what makes them tick- and I'd be doing a disservice by showing you their cards too early. Let's just say that the ladies in this world can run with the best of them...and I do mean the very best.

Malory Archer elevator 400
August 16, 2018

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It didn't hit me until the very end of the book that our heroine was never even given a name. That's because she rules the narrative with her forceful, first-person account of how she went from a pencil-pushing, sweater-wearing 9-to-5er to a "queenpin." I've only read Abbott's young adult novels before this one and one of the things, okay, two of the things, that I've always liked about them are the fiercely intense, fiercely rivalrous homoerotic relationships between her female heroines, and the fact that she lets them be bad people if she wants, without judgement.

I don't usually like crime noir fiction because I feel like a lot of it is very misogynistic. And yeah, you might be thinking, "But wait, Nenia, you read bodice-rippers, you of all people shouldn't be talking about misogynistic." It's true that bodice-rippers sometimes carry an internalized misogyny of their own class, but it's penned by women, from a woman's gaze. It's an entirely different sort of misogyny than the "breasted-boobily" variety, where the heroine is constantly written from the male gaze, even as she's looking at herself in the bathroom mirror, and every "strong" heroine must be given a history of (usually sexual) abuse, and all of the men toss off bigoted one-liners while getting called "smooth" and "tough" in reviews.

Awful things happen to our plucky unnamed heroine and the woman who takes her under her marabou boa-wearing wing. They do awful things to other people. But both of them are full of agency, and I can't tell you how satisfying it was to see these women doing the things that men do, and taking advantage of that sexism to, in some cases literally, get away with murder. QUEENPIN is literally a Lana Del Rey song come to life, and if the idea of that appeals to you, put on Ultraviolence, plug in your ear buds, and just bask in the truly F'd up glory that is QUEENPIN.

Here's looking at you, kid.

3 to 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Aditya.
270 reviews79 followers
August 14, 2020
I read somewhere that Megan Abbott during her English degree decided to do a paper on the evolution of noir. She does not only write hard boiled fiction but she is apparently an authority on it. So I could not wait to get my hands on. Queenpin, it won an Edgar for Best Paperback. Alas it doesn't justify the hype. Her love for the genre is obvious, her writing can easily pass off as being penned during the halcyon days of pulp. But it is very derivative and cliched.

The nameless hard-boiled protagonist seduced by the allure of quick money starts working for a gangster, falls in love with the wrong person and then shit hits the fan. Hundred other authors has written hundred other stories on the same generic lines. The only key appeal here is she has reversed the gender roles. So the femme fatale role is played by a handsome, no good guy and the protagonist is a woman. That's it, that's the gimmick nothing else to see here. No memorable characterization, no individual style, no personal touch; this is the book that would come out if you take a bunch of random 40s noirs and put them in the blender. Abbott extended it from a short story (came with the ebook) she wrote earlier which is equally mediocre.

I don't need to tell Abbott that pulps with one dimensional characters went extinct by the 60s, once the Baby Boomers came on to the scene because cynicism alone was not enough to sell them. America has moved on from the desperation and malaise of post war years. The good authors and the genre evolved while one trick pony veterans like Howard Browne and Gil Brewer went the way of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately Abbott is more reminiscent of the latter group.

Abbott claimed to write this from the point of view of the femme fatale but the trouble is she basically writes it from the POV of slightly amoral protagonist seduced by vices, basically every noir lead ever written. So the female protagonist does not go beyond a gimmick. A few years ago a generic superhero movie The Black Panther got a Best Picture Oscar nomination and made a boatload of money. No one thought it was any different from the dozen other superhero movies that come out annually but they also believed that it deserved to be recognized as it starred a black super hero. Queenpin is the same, the praise for this can simply be attributed to the fact the lead is a woman. Now I find that kind of attitude condescending as though a Black superhero or a female led noir can't stand on its own merits and has to be celebrated simply for making a point. Or maybe my perspective is insular, maybe women will enjoy it more. So I will leave it at this - Undoubtedly fun, sexy and easy to read but tragically generic. Rating - 3/5.
Profile Image for Greg.
1,109 reviews1,843 followers
November 6, 2011
This has been one of the stand-outs in my recent foray into crime fiction. There is nothing necessarily about it this book that really stands out, it's just so smoothly executed that it was a pleasure to read. There was nothing cringe inducing here, the dialogue was stylized enough to hark back to the hard-boiled / noir of the 40's / 50's without falling into parody or made to feel strained. Even though I've read a slew of crime novels lately, and had read some before this past month I still don't feel like I'm that informed about the genre, and everything I say is sort of uninformed nonsense, but I don't think I'm too out of line to say this was a lot like reading a Jim Thompson refracted through Raymond Chandler. All of the tediousness I find in most of the books I've read by Thompson is smoothed over but with all of the good stuff left intact.

The book is about a young woman who takes a bookkeeping job for a seedy night-club with some criminal connections and gets noticed by a legendary mob woman who transforms the young woman into her protege. The surface setting might be a couple of women working some mob operations, but the real meat to the story is the grifting going on between the characters. In my usual recent book report style, the young woman starts a relationship with a degenerate gambler who owes some money to the mob and because of this relationship some stuff happens in the book and the lives of the characters are affected.

One day I will read another Beckett novel and I'll be able to write a different book report, one that will read something like, a man lays in pig-shit, he thinks and nothing much happens.

Shitty book reports aside, this was a fine good read, and I'll be reading some more of Megan Abbott's books soon.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 10 books420 followers
May 3, 2014
QUEENPIN was my first introduction to Megan Abbott, based on a Kemper review of said author, not said novel, but it certainly won’t be my last. The voice carried me like a tumbleweed in the middle of New Mexico. It sang like a blue canary in the middle of spring. It had heart, promise…Well, you get the idea.

The unnamed narrator proved every bit as powerful as she did mysterious. She jumped up on stage, fully exposed, front and center, with hardly a stitch on her, and proceeded to take on all comers. She had guts, panache, and often a clever way with words. She showed first-hand why noir novels can be such powerful reads. While we saw the other characters through her eyes, they were fully fleshed out as well.

The story was raw, exposed, and everything a great noir should be. I don’t know if I’d call QUEENPIN great, as it had a few flaws, like all the characters within the confines of the novel, but it was a damn fine read.

The storyline clipped along at a thoroughbred pace, and like the main character, I raced rather dramatically toward the ending. As for the ending, it may not have been a complete surprise, but it wrapped up the story rather nicely. If you like noir, especially with a female lead, you may want to hop on the Megan Abbott bandwagon. And have your red flag ready, you’re probably going to need it.

Cross-posted at Robert's Reads
Profile Image for Carla Remy.
835 reviews61 followers
May 12, 2023

Perfect. Ladies in an early 1960s (I think) criminal gambling world. Historical fiction not overdone or cheesy.
Profile Image for F.R..
Author 30 books201 followers
March 29, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Brandon.
901 reviews233 followers
March 23, 2017
Queenpin is the story of a young woman, who remains unnamed throughout, plucked from a two-bit nightclub where she’s cooking the books for a pair of half-wits and placed under the wing of the powerful Gloria Denton, a big player in the world of organized crime. Under Gloria, our narrator develops into a student of the game by dressing the part, living the part and finding the confidence she never knew she had. However, as the old saying goes, nothing gold can stay. She falls in love with a hapless gambler named Vic who threatens to completely upset the apple cart.

I firmly believe Megan Abbott is a time traveler. This book could have easily been written in the 40s at the height of the genre – it’s like a puzzle piece that fits perfectly into the picture that writers like Chandler and Hammett were assembling at the time. While Abbott uses all the common noir tropes, the story feels fresh and dangerous rather than recycled. I think a lot has to do with the genre flip – think Double Indemnity but with an infinitely more dangerous target.

I think what initially drew me to noir was the dialogue. Back then if you weren’t lying, you were giving someone the hard truth. Characters were less likely to meander around the point and more likely to spit out lines like they were in a hurry using a bottomless well of wit and snark. That said, Abbott is a student of the game and it shows in spades. My eyes danced along the pages, trying to keep up with Queenpin’s contemptible cast.

While Megan has been having a wealth of success with her foray into modern, young-woman noir, I’d love to see her return to this time and setting for another go-around. Abbott is one of my favorite authors working today and I’m looking forward to seeing her at Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto.
Profile Image for Richard.
984 reviews357 followers
August 2, 2015
It's always exciting discovering a new author, whose work I can't wait to dive into more. It's great reading a pulp noir novel from a woman's perspective (with a man as the "femme fatale" no less! ha!) and written with the same tough talk of some of the hard-boiled classics. In the book, a young, bright-eyed club bookkeeper finds herself living the good life after she becomes the protégé of an aging but still glamorous (and still ruthless) mob queen. She might lose everything after breaking the rules and falling hard for a two-bit gambler. Sexy and poetic, Megan Abbott's prose is the main star here. It starts off with all gun's blazing, never lets up, and makes it hard to put the book down. Here are two excerpts that give you a taste of her great writing:

"It was a soft sell, a long sell. I never knew what she had in mind until I already had such a taste I thought my tongue would never stop buzzing. Meaning, she got me in, she got me jobs, she got me fat stacks of cash too thick to wedge down my cleavage. She got me in with the hard boys, the fast money, and I couldn't get enough. I wanted more. Give me more."


"One night, he ripped my $350 faille day suit from collar to skirt hem in one long tear. Fuck me, I was in love.
I'm yours, that's what I told him without ever spitting out a word. He could see it on me, feel it on me. He liked to have me on the bare mattress, liked the way it rubbed me raw. I liked it. Liked the burn of it. Liked thinking of it all the next day, every time I leaned against anything, every time the strap of my brassiere pulled across it."

Can't wait to read more Megan Abbott, who has books with awesome titles like Bury Me Deep and The End of Everything.
Profile Image for Lauren.
219 reviews46 followers
October 18, 2016
It was a soft sell, a long sell. I never knew what she had in mind until I already had such a taste I thought my tongue would never stop buzzing.

There comes a time in every girl's life when she has to finally read her last unread Megan Abbott novel. Now I'm stuck waiting for the next new one like a sucker.

Queenpin is the story of a nameless girl from a square family who climbs willingly and eagerly into a life of easy money and illicit thrills. She's helped along by the glamorous, hard-edged Gloria Denton, the one woman mover-and-shaker who's "no one's wife... [and] no moll, never was, not even when she was fresh and tight as Kim Novak." Gloria is a power in her own right, or as much of a power as anyone in the girl's town of middlemen can be, and her tutoring brings the girl into a world of racetrack money-laundering and casino protection money collection, a world of beautiful clothes and charged banter. The two women are tied together by their shared hunger for power and their mutual, if careful, admiration, but all of that is disrupted when perennial loser Vic appears on the scene. His wolfishness triggers something in our girl, and she finds herself taking bigger and bigger risks for him--and, on some level, for her own gratification.

This is a short novel--under two hundred pages--and its prose is so gorgeous and dense with image that it almost feels like poetry:

Hell, I'll admit it, I had a taste for the other form the start. Where would a twenty-two-year-old kid rather be? Setting the table for a corned beef and cabbage dinner with her old man, forks scraping, moths fluttering against the windows, the briny smell from the kitchen sinking into my skin with each tick of the imitation grandfather clock? Or gliding my way through the fuzzy dark of the Tee Hee, vibrating with low, slow jazz, clusters of juniper-breathed men and women touching, hands on lapels, fingers on silk nylons, cigarettes releasing willowy clouds into every acid green banquette? ...Clock-out time and I never wanted to leave. I'd grin my way into a Tom Collins from Shep, the lantern-jawed bartender, and watch from the corner stool, watch everything, eating green cherries, the candied drink soaking into my lips, my tongue.

Even for Abbott, that's extraordinary. The poetry carries over into the relationship between Gloria and the narrator, as well, with the meaning and significance of their connection constantly shifting: here possessive, there professional, here sensual, there frightened, here mirroring, there contrasting. The girl is Gloria's counterpart and sequel, and she knows it, but what she can't know is what that means to Gloria, and that means she can't know what risks she can take--and she only realizes the weight of that after she's already taken one risk too many. The intensity and ambiguity of it all is something Abbott handles perfectly.

This misses out on five stars only because of Vic, whose charisma I never quite buy. I like my hommes fatals as much as anyone, and Abbott can do excellent ones, but Vic's appeal is entirely based in a kind of reckless, aggressive sensuality, and that's hard to convey, especially when the girl makes it clear that even she knows from the beginning that he's a loser in every sense of the word. (Even his dialogue isn't quite up to scratch, as she herself notes.) I had to shrug and accept it, but once I did, there's a definite and distinctively noir allure to watching the narrator knowingly chase after her own doom. It's like a James M. Cain novel smuggled inside of an all-girl Goodfellas, and I don't know how that could fail to appeal.

Plus, again, there's that prose. One more quote for the road:

"Don't sweat it, kid. It's just one twist in a long seam. Don't worry your black-and-blue head over it."

She must have seen the relief in my eyes, my slitted eyes, because she added, "You don't give me enough credit, baby. I don't leave you hung out to dry. It's not good business. And besides, you're my girl."

That she is.
Profile Image for aPriL does feral sometimes .
1,889 reviews428 followers
May 18, 2018
‘Queenpin’ is dramatic, cruel, and pure 1940’s noir. Have you seen the movies ‘Gun Crazy’ or ‘Out of the Past’? This novel has all of that movie miasma of criminal ambition and lurking betrayal - except the two main characters are women. One, fortyish Gloria Denton, is a ‘made man’ so to speak, and the other, twenty-two-year-old Murray, is her upcoming protege.

We never know Murray’s first name because all of the characters continually call her “baby”, “sugar cake”, “muffin“, “kid”, or “honey”. Murray assumes false identities when she begins to work for Gloria Denton as a runner and a driver, which mostly is about delivering suitcases, packages and envelopes from casinos to warehouses to racetracks to politicians to policemen, but she hopes for the chance to sometimes travel to Europe like Gloria. Part of her job is to make an appearance in the casinos and meetings dressed as a high-class wealthy woman, and to smile like a high-priced courtesan, but it takes time for Gloria to bring our nameless criminal debutante to that level. Murray never had to play at being that kind of woman before she started working for Gloria.

Murray's church-going father filled the vending machines for the Club Tee Hee, a job he had had for fifteen years. When his bosses Jerome and Arthur needed a bookkeeper, he told them about one of his three daughters, our narrator. He did not like the job she had as a model at a department store modeling dresses, and he thought sitting behind a desk hidden away in the nightclub's office safer. However, he did not know how ambitious his daughter Murray was, or that Jerome was actually looking for a bookkeeper willing to help him skim money from the profits, hiding the theft from the Mafia owners.

About five days into the skimming, Murray sees Gloria for the first time. Gloria came every two weeks to count Jerome's "vig" (fee charged by a bookmaker for services) and take it to her bosses.

The nameless narrator cannot take her eyes off of Gloria. "She was legend." Jerome and Arthur and the regulars told stories about Gloria. She had maybe killed people, gutting them with rumored long-handled scissors. She had run with the "pros", an insider with the Mob when it was the Mob, although no one says that name out loud. Ever.

Gloria is looking at the narrator's books. A few comments later and Murray knows Gloria suspects. No, Gloria knows. She sweats. Later, over coffee, Gloria offers her a job, to work for Gloria. "Yes," I blurted, standing too, if shakily. "I'm ready. I'm all yours." She nodded and I got the feeling that nod was her version of a smile. "Good, kid. You did good."

Gentle reader, our nameless narrator thinks she is prepared to do whatever it takes to step into the same identity and role Gloria plays. But her first mistake is to believe Gloria is playing a role. Her second is to fall in love with a gambler who loses.

This novel is an awesome post-noir novel. I had to look at the publishing date to verify it truly was written only a few years ago. Be warned, gentle reader, there is swearing and graphic violence. Bullets cause a lot of damage in real life. Modern noir is not gonna be tiptoeing around the realism which is the foundation of fictional noir stories.

There was a real Queenpin. Her name was Virginia Hill.

Profile Image for Jayakrishnan.
488 reviews167 followers
May 28, 2022
I can't say I like Megan Abbott's prose much. It is too brutal, over the top and nasty like Jim Thompson. This novel read like it was written by some middle class accountant trying to sound badass. But she does sort of make it up here with the plotting and the twists.

Roles are reversed in this small novel. In noir thrillers written by men, it is the femme fatale who ruins a nice gig or a heist. Here it is an alcoholic homme fatale (I googled male equivalent of femme fatale and found this) who ruins a mentor-rookie relationship between two women.

A young female accountant who helps cook books at a shady casino, gets taken under the wing of Gloria Denton, a sort of a female James Conway and Tommy DeVito rolled into one, just much more ruthless and psychotic. The accountant is living the life until she falls head over heels for Vic, a hard drinking loser. Things go seriously awry when she tries to pull a job to help Vic pay off his debt. But it backfires on her.

What did not work in this novel was that there was no real connection between the accountant and Denton. The accountant says things like I like her legs and the two of us are bound together. Sure they dig graves together and help move a dead body. But the bonding part didn't work. Also, the accountant who seems to be smart and level headed falling for the perpetually drunk Vic was a bit hard to digest. Not believable like Sharon Stone falling for James Woods in Casino.

But like I said, the plot twists are cool. The grave digging and disappearing body plot points were interesting. Abbott does have some nice ideas. The ending with the "once a criminal, always a criminal" message was done well.
Profile Image for Kansas.
575 reviews272 followers
March 15, 2022
"Me miró como si me conociera. Como si lo supiera todo de mí. Ya estaba acostumbrada. Los polis llegaban en distintos tamaños y con distintas cicatrices, pero por dentro todos tenían el mismo mecanismo. Siempre te miraban como si hubieras salido de una cadena de montaje para mujeres de mala vida, muñecas de plástico moldeado con el brillo desgastado por el roce de demasiados dedos."

Básicamente esta novela es el relato de una mujer intentando abrirse camino, una vez más, en un mundo de hombres y para hacerlo ¿qué tiene que hacer?? Rebelarse. Es el mundo del hampa en la América de los años 50, justo cuando a una mujer solo le quedaban dos iniciativas: o ser una buena chica y no salirse del tiesto, o ser una "bad girl", y salirse del tiesto de los limites marcados e invadir un terreno que no era el de una dama. Y leyendo esta novela no podía parar de acordarme de todas estas películas de cine negro con actrices como Lizabeth Scott, Veronica Lake, Audrey Long o Jane Simmons, dónde ellas se salían de lo marcado, mujeres nada pasivas, que de alguna forma marcaron esas películas eminentemente masculinas del cine negro, y se reconvirtieron en un estudio de la psicologia femenina en aquella época tan complicada y todo para que ellas pudieran liberarse de los roles preestablecidos.

"Se acercó más y su sonrisa me recordó al lobo de los cuentos infantiles. Cuando era niña, cada vez que mis hermanas contaban cuentos, haciendo correr sus dedos sobre mis brazos y pierna, siempre sentí simpatía por los lobos. Ojos estrechos, dientes resplandecientes, como sierras. Los lobos aguardaban al acecho, pero eras tú quien se tenía que internar en lo más profundo del bosque".

Un detalle importante de la autora es el de no dar nombre a nuestra protagonista femenina pero sí que oímos una y otra vez el nombre de su mentora, la mujer que la introduce en el mundo del hampa, la mujer que le enseña todo lo que sabe: Gloria Denton. La protagonista que hasta el momento de conocer a Gloria Denton había sido una buena chica, estudiando secretariado, cuidando de su padre y trabajando como contable, en el momento en que conoce a Gloria, todo cambia, porque Gloria es todo lo que ella no es: embutida en esos trajes sastres ceñidos y con sus taconazos, es toda sofisticación y piernas, seguridad en sí misma y experiencia en la vida. Gloria enseguida ve en la joven protagonista talento para seguir sus pasos: apuestas, blanqueo de dinero y relacionarse en un mundo de hombres usando sus armas de mujer, y nuestra protagonista consiente, justo hasta que todo empieza torcerse. Y es ahí cuando empieza a desmonoronarse el mundo de confianza entre ellas dos y la novela da un giro y se convierte en novela negra pura y dura.

"Has de decidir quién eres, niña, me dijo en una ocasión. Una vez los sepas, todos los demás lo sabrán también".

Es novela negra donde las protagonistas son dos mujeres de armas tomar y dónde Megan Abbott hace una especie de reivindicación feminista del porqué la mujer había estado tan escondida en el noir de la época, no porqué no existieran sino porque se las ninguneaba. Ya sabeís por aquí mi debilidad por algunas escritoras noir de la época pero Megan Abbott es una escritora joven, que toma de alguna forma el testigo de aquellas escritoras invisibles, y les da visibilidad total. Esta novela forma parte de la primera tanda de novelas de esta autora sobre la mujer en el mundo noir de los 40 y 50, luego se ha centrado en otro tipo de novelas, contemporáneas, aunque básicamente sus temas son los de siempre; Megan Abbott, una autora de lo más interesante hoy en día.

"En este mundo -añadió cruzando sus gloriosas piernas, deslumbrante bajo la trémula luz- nunca puedes bajar la guardia. Si eres capaz de controlarte, podrás controlar a todos los demás".

Y esta novela no es otra cosa que el viaje de una mujer, nuestra protagonista Sin Nombre, en un viaje de descubrimiento de sí misma: porque no todas en aquella época podían ser buenas chicas, casándose o siendo maestras; algunas otras que no se conformaban con la pasividad se internaban en el mundo de los hombres y a codazos tenían que labrarse camino. Ellos las utilizaban, y en esta novela, Megan Abbott nos cuenta como unas pocas usaban la misma táctica, pero a la inversa. Bad Girls.

"Mientras caminaba hacia mí, parecía atemporal. Eterna. Podía tener uno o mil años y siempre sería igual, siempre avanzaría lentamente hacia mí, con la mirada clavada en mi, sabiéndolo todo".

Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,381 followers
May 9, 2018
Megan Abbott is my favorite contemporary writer. She writes these entertaining, twisty, slightly noiry novels, and they're good. She writes about gymnasts and cheerleaders and witches and she understands the jungle adolescence is, and how it can be murder in more than one way.

Queenpin was her breakthrough book, and it's different. It's straight noir without a teenager in sight. It's a good time but I honestly don't feel like it stands out as much as her later work does. Abbott's got the language of noir down - that hard-boiled purple overblown stuff that's fun in small doses - but it's more interesting when she mashes it up with Bring It On. The plot is twisty without being too twisty - I appreciate that, because some of that original noir stuff, I had like no idea what was going on - looking at you, The Big Sleep. There are a few subtleties. Our narrator is the protege of the queenpin, and you wonder whether this is a surrogate mother/daughter relationship or something different. But it's okay either way. I like her newer stuff better.
Profile Image for Steve.
802 reviews225 followers
January 11, 2011
Very well done noir set in the fifties, with an unnamed bad girl learning the criminal ropes under the tutelage of Gloria Denton, the "Queenpin." To be honest, other than making some deliveries to various shady places, I was never all that sure just what the younger woman was doing. But that's entirely secondary, since what's good about this novel is its razor sharp dialogue, a great cast of noirish characters, and its period atmosphere. So good in fact that earlier on I was considering giving the book 5 stars. However, in the last 30 pages or so, I felt it faltered a bit, with the young woman cracking a bit too wise a bit too often. What had seemed fresh and authentic up to that point, sounded a bit canned and cliched in the home stretch. That said, Abbott is a heck of writer, and this a very mean and tight little read. Abbott reminds me a bit of the spy novelist Alan Furst in that, like Furst, she has so absorbed a particular historical period and a particular genre, that you are thrown off a bit when you do notice anything amiss, such as a clinker line or a clumsy scene. The downside of that kind of mastery is that the novel can almost seem like a clinical experiment in genre. It also begs the question as to whether the writer can pull off such a writing feat in the here and now. But enough complaining, since I really do highly recommend this one.
Profile Image for RJ - Slayer of Trolls.
764 reviews179 followers
February 8, 2018
Like a saucy female version of Goodfellas (with less narcotics), Queenpin hits all the major pulp-noir conventions. Abbott spins a tale that's so deliciously trashy you'll want to read it all in one sitting. Sure, it's got some pacing issues, and of course at times it reads like she's trying to use every slang word or phrase from the 50s, but it's so much fun you just won't care.
Profile Image for Judith.
110 reviews15 followers
December 28, 2009

Once again, i met up with Ms Abbott...and was TKOd right out of the box....but it didn't hurt, not one bit. The narrative tension...the period detail..the cold-as-ice women and wastrel men...the broken bones...the blood..the mayhem...the "heat"....are all here in spades. Three times lucky, i guess.

A crash course in Grifting 101, under the tutelage of the legendary Gloria Denton, leaves our wide-eyed heroine bewitched, bothered, and bewildered...and craving the ever-elusive MORE. Things go seriously awry when Miss Wide Eyes falls hard for a rotten, unlucky (but gorgeous) gambler. In an effort to save his sorry ass and pay off his Vig...a plot is hatched to relieve La Denton of some cash...bloody murder follows. After our girl's wounds heal she decides to turn heel...turn her coat...and rat the Queenpin out to the coppers....more bloody death follows, toot-sweet. The newly freed Bird hies off to greener pastures..only to meet a Character from the recent past, who offers her the chance of a lifetime..the chance to become a Queenpin, herself...talk about Fate. what kind of Luck is that?

5 Stars (oh, hell, make it a double)
Profile Image for Monique.
194 reviews25 followers
March 7, 2021
I love the language and the writing here - it sounds so authentic and flows with slick ease. The action was engaging although I struggled to accept that our shrewd and emotionally ruthless narrator would risk it all over a dedicated loser and chump like Vic Riordan. The sheer stupidness of this plot device and the notion that great sex makes a doormat of her, kind of annoyed me. So that’s the lost star.
Profile Image for Mindy.
312 reviews38 followers
January 23, 2019

My favorite thing about this book was the language. I never grew tired of the way the author turns a phrase. Loved that the two main characters were female. Can't wait to read more by this author.
Profile Image for Toby.
831 reviews328 followers
April 10, 2012
Two books in to Megan Abbott territory and I think I'm in love. Her stuff feels comfortable, like an old friend is chatting away non-stop but instead of boyfriends and work and kids this friend is casually telling you about the guy she killed or how the Grande Dame of organised crime in your town has taken her under her wing, pulling no punches along the way in terms of explicit description of severed arteries and rough sex.

How can you not love that?

As I said after Die a Little recently, I couldn't help but flip page after page of the book, thrilled, engrossed and loving every second of it. She tells a great story, perfect for the genre, she gets the tone and pitch just right, knows how the conventions work inside and out and then slaps you in the face by subverting them. This is not a hard-boiled man, gun in hand, taken in by a quick-talking double-crossing dame but it's not quite the opposite either.

The unnamed narrator is already the type of character I have come to associate with Megan Abbott's work; a naieve woman who learns quickly, strong, attracted to the darker aspects of life and who enjoys rough, kinky sex. As with the male-centric traditions of the genre it is that most evil of sins, lust, that leads the protagonist astray, causing them to put everything on the line. But Megan Abbott writes these dames stronger than any man I remember reading with dialogue I could imagine Bogey reading to boot.

It's not quite 5* stuff but it sure is incredible and insanely enjoyable reading for what it is.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,300 reviews385 followers
April 4, 2021
It's a noir story and I'm not sure it was for me to be honest. It wasn't bad, liked some parts of it but overall not my thing. But then again I usually struggle with noir books.
Profile Image for Amy.
2,578 reviews400 followers
December 22, 2019
I took one look at the scantily clothed female on the front cover and nearly returned this book to the library posthaste. The last thing I wanted to spend my Christmas break doing was reading some sexualized story of lust and greed. And you know how these types of books go. The noir genre does not describe women in appropriate terms.
But that wasn't the case here.
This was a crazy, crisp, violent, language-filled feminist thrill ride and I astonished myself by devouring it in one sitting.
Feminist noir. I'm a fan. I almost want to tag this chick-lit except that you won't find warm fuzzies or Hallmark romance here. You will find badass broads and cut-throat dames: strong, powerful, awesome women and the world of violence and betrayal they live in.
I don't think we ever learn the name of the narrator. She starts off young, naive, hungry. Then an industry insider-a legend in mob circles-takes her under her wings. And so our nameless narrator becomes Gloria Denton's girl.
It is such a tangled identity.
I could give five stars alone for the tangled, harsh nature of their relationship. But, of course, there is a man.
Stupid man.
Because our narrator falls for him hard. And her identity as Gloria's girl becomes that much more fuzzy.
But once again the story surprised me. The relationship does not define our narrator. It may motivate her. But it never becomes the motivation you would expect.
Anyway, high praises for a very unexpected read. I don't recommend it to just anyone. You should have a taste for noir violence and morally ambiguous characters. But if you do, I think you will find this quite the treat.
Profile Image for Left Coast Justin.
389 reviews76 followers
November 23, 2020
Three stars means it was written with average skill for this genre. Not bad, well worth finishing, but I'm unlikely to remember it in a year or seek out more from this author.

The twist on this noir adventure is that the two leads were both women who are tough enough to hold their own through the sleazier parts of Vegas. At least, I think it's Vegas, but the author deliberately removes any clues as to timing and location, and indeed the narrator's name is never revealed. At one point they took a short drive to Titusville; there's a Titusville in Florida, though there may be others. At another point she mentioned running away to Memphis, to Kansas City, to Denver, in that order, implying that she's in the East somewhere. But it's never made clear -- only that they aren't yet playing in the big leagues where the "big city" gangsters are located.

Although it is essentially impossible to tackle noir without succumbing to at least a few cliches, I think the author did a good job of keeping this to a minimum. There were lots of women in this book, but not one of them was a prostitute; lots of drinking, but the leaders always drank club soda or nothing at all.

What I did find troubling was the noirish language in which the book was written. Tastes vary, but for me, I prefer books in which people speak normal English most of the time, using gangster language sparingly, when the situation calls for it. However, the paragraphs in this book were absolutely drowning in molls, mugs, vig, patsies, pigeons, gams, ice, ribbons, fishes, sharks, sawbucks and pin money. At different times, the narrators was referred to as Cookie, Cream Puff, Kewpie Doll, Kid, Girl, and a dozen others. At times, it felt like I was reading a Springsteen lyric about the Magic Rat for 200 pages.

The verdict: I wanted to read without having to think too hard, and that's exactly what I got. Middle-of-the-road noir.
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