Scarlet Rose


Author: Julia Madeleine

Published: 2008

Genre: Crime

About Scarlet Rose: Fiona's stepfather has been murdered and the cops think she did it.

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Review of Scarlet Rose

When she was 16, Fiona Dalton's mother forced her to quit school and become a stripper to support the family. Her former stepfather, Charlie, was the only person to offer the love and support that Fiona so badly needed. But now Charlie has been murdered and Fiona doesn't like what the cops are suggesting may have happened.

Fiona jumped up and let the pictures fall to the floor. She let out a choked yelp and covered her face with both hands. Taking a step backwards, she stumbled on the leg of her chair, trying to get away from the horrific images. She felt suddenly dizzy and her stomach lurched, the burning acid rising from her belly into her throat and the back of her mouth. Turning, she buried her face against the wall in the corner of the room. Her body shook as if a blast of cold wind had swept over her.

"Why did you have to show me those?" she cried. A renewed energy fuelled by anger unleashed itself, and she turned to face the cops. Her cheeks were bright red, a striking contrast with her fair hair and black dress.

"What's the matter with you f**king people? How could you show me those pictures! How could you do that to me! Don't you understand? This was the only father I've ever known. I loved this man! I f**king loved this man! And you want me to remember him like this? This is how I'm supposed to remember him?"

...from page 24

Add recurring nightmares, a selfish, needy mother, and Charlie's mysterious estranged son to this and Fiona's life is pretty miserable.

I was particularly impressed by how well the characters were defined in this book. Most of them felt very real. Sylvia, who's stage name was Scarlet Rose, was hard and self-absorbed with an inflated sense of her own beauty. However she did have the occasional soft moment which allowed me to believe that people could love her. Fiona, on the other hand, was much softer. I would have expected her to be harder given her mostly miserable life so it was a nice touch that she wasn't. Then again, she was stoned for most of the book so maybe that was it. I also liked that, for Fiona, stripping was simply her job. She didn't like it but she was good at it so she just did it.

There were a couple of surprises with the plot, at least one of which was a bit unsettling, and the story moved along quickly. The sense of place was also good. It wasn't the Toronto of shopping malls and tourist attractions but rather the Toronto of strip bars and drug deals. I found it easy enough to put myself in those places, although I have to admit that I've visited a strip bar or two so that may have helped.

The only real complaint I have with this book is that it could have used a bit more proofreading. Otherwise, it was an interesting read.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 30 January 2009.

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More Reviews

Don Graves, The Hamilton Spectator, 14 June 2008
“A debut that is both raw and satisfying, with writing that compels the reader to want more.”
M. Wayne Cunningham, Mysterious Reviews
“A characteristically noir novel, Scarlet Rose, is first-class in its genre. But be aware. As good as it is, it ain't no cozy.”


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Added 31 January 2009.
Updated 07 September 2013.