The Jacq of Spade by Patricia Loofbourrow
Warning: scene of domestic violence
The Jacq of Spades by Patricia Loofbourrow follows Jacqueline Spadros, wife of Anthony Spadros who is heir to rule one of the four powerful families operating in the city of Bridges. Jacqueline, who grew up in the Pots in her mother’s whorehouse, went from being poor to the wife of a wealthy man at the top of the food chain. Life isn’t as great as appearances make it to be, as Jacqueline was blackmailed into her marriage by the Spadros patriarch, and Jacqueline is haunted by the nightmare of her best friend’s death that occurred the night she was brought into this life. Despite living under the rule of her sadistic father-in-law and society’s constraints, Jacqueline finds a little bit of freedom for herself in her private eye business, and that’s how this whole problem started. Contacted by a woman to find her missing son, Jacqueline is reluctant to take the case. Her previous jobs were nothing more than missing pets and cheating spouses but she’s preparing for the future. As heir apparent to their family, Anthony is constantly in danger. If something should happen to him, by family or foe, Jacqueline knows she has to have the funds to disappear before she’s found in the river like so many other unfortunates. When gang cards are found at the kidnapping scene, as well as where vandalism of one of the family businesses takes place, Jacq realizes she may be in over her head.
The author really captured the neo-Victorian vibe, and I really enjoyed the playing card theme throughout the novel. It actually took me a minute to catch on to the card theme but once I did, I saw the significance everywhere. I hope it has greater significance later on than just being an unusual take on ruling families. There were hints dropped about a religion, but no big explanation. I really enjoyed learning about Bridges, and the four ruling families in one city reminded me of an old, English-run mob which was a fun take. It did take me a minute to orient myself in the book, and to realize that the Pot, is the poorest spot in the city where the four corners of the quadrants intersect.
As for the characters, I’m unsure of how I feel about Jacqueline. At the very least, she’s a woman trying her hardest to play the hand she’s dealt (Sorry, couldn’t help myself). While I didn’t like certain habits she’d developed to deal with her circumstances, I also admired her strength and loyalty (even if it was fear motivated) to the Spadros and protecting her husband. Jacq has dealt with a lot in life, and while most would argue that going from living in a whore house to wife of a powerful, wealthy man is a good thing, she has the skills, bruises and mental scars to prove the life isn’t as glamourous as everyone thinks. When it comes down to it, Jacq isn’t above doing the dirty work and I really appreciated that in her. She doesn’t revel in it; it just has to be done. She, more than her husband, has been groomed to take over the family when the time comes though it will be behind the scenes.
I don’t think I liked Anthony very much. Jacq can’t confide in him, and she’s the one coming up with all the ideas to solve their gang and loyalty problems. She’s also constantly lying to him and sneaking away behind his back, but he never suspects her. For a man that’s about to run a criminal enterprise, that doesn’t inspire my confidence in his abilities. The rest of the characters were really vibrant, distinguishable and came to life for me.
For the plot, this mystery kept me guessing up until the very end. I really had no idea what or who was involved, and I enjoyed the conclusion. However, I felt that there were too many loose ends left unraveled. While it sets us up for the next installment in the series, I wasn’t completely satisfied. Still, to keep my guessing the entire time is not something that happens very often.
My Rating: 3.7/5
If you’re interested in The Jacq of Spades, you can buy it on Amazon for $.299
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