It’s lovely to be chatting about ‘Play the Red Queen’ by Juris Jurjevics, with thanks to Anne for the tour invite.
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.
Initially my interest was piqued for this book because I was about to teach a USA Vietnam unit at school and thought it would add nicely to the backdrop of my planning.
It’s Saigon during the 60s at a time of unrest and war; Jurjevics’ historical fiction novel is set in a backdrop of political unrest, brutality and social distraction and frames a story of an assassin, a lady of death: the Red Queen. The reader follows two military CID investigators tasked with the uncovering the Red Queen assassin before she strikes again. The task is far from simple and the challenges are seemingly unsurmountable at times creating narrative interest and drive for the reader.
I enjoyed the investigator aspect of the book, even if all the pieces didn’t fuse together completely for me; the backdrop is both a fascinating and terrible time of a country trapped through war and I found this quite fascinating. The writing was often immersive, and I enjoyed the atmosphere Jurjevics creates; there’s clearly a great deal of research behind the narrative of a torn and breaking land with it’s politically charged themes.
As I said at the start, I’m about to teach a USA Vietnam War unit at school, so I enjoyed the setting as a useful planning tool for my own study and understanding: with the added thriller read bonus of a hunt for an elusive assassin.
A carefully plotted thriller with injected realism; a deeply readable historical setting and a nail-biting plot to capture a shifty, highly trained assassin – this is a recommended read for those who enjoy historical settings and political thrillers.
The Blog Tour
Juris Jurjevics (1943-2018) was born in Latvia and grew up in Displaced Persons camps in Germany before emigrating to the United States. He served in Vietnam for fourteen months, nine days, and two hours, his original departure date delayed by the Tet Offensive. He wrote two other novels, Red Flags and The Trudeau Vector, which was published in ten other countries. Publisher and co-founder of the Soho Press, Jurjevics worked for decades in the book industry.