Four five-star Yelp reviews do you little good when you’re nailed inside a giant barrel of whiskey, which is where our intrepid private detective Barry finds himself while on the case to help his campy drag friends, all of whom have numerous secrets to hide.
If he can decide between the man he once loved and the bartender he’s falling for, successfully stay undercover as his alter-ego, Mary, Queen of Scotch, and keep one step ahead of the bad guys, plus a raucously funny meddling mom, he just might live to see that much-desired fifth review.
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The room was oddly empty. Oddly because, without the others in there, it was devoid of bitchiness, of fabulousness. It was all shell, no soul. Cryptlike would’ve been apt, but crypts rarely come replete with boas, bangles, and a blinding array of beads.
There were four tables, all with mirrors above them, bulbs all around, the lights now dim. The tables were cluttered, the mirrors lined with photos of the girls, of their loved ones, of naked beau-hunks, of catty cartoons. There were makeup containers everywhere, clothes strewn about. A cyclone couldn’t have made the place look any more cluttered.READ MORE
There were eight of them, eight in the troupe. The eighth was now me. There were four tables shared by two girls. Lucy shared the table closest to the wall. It, like the other three, was covered with drag debris: discarded lipstick tubes, half-open jars of makeup remover, a few dislodged feathers, rhinestones. There was photo of Arthur and Chad taped to the mirror, a Polaroid, the couple in some sort of Buddhist-looking temple. The person taking the photo was a good bit away so that their age difference seemed less apparent, distance being a girl’s best friend.
My eyes went from my client to the tabletop to a drawer below. I gave it a pull. It pulled back. In other words, it was locked. Locked drawers have always held a special interest to me. And I’m not speaking euphemistically. Mostly. I mean, you watch any detective movie, any detective TV show, read any detective book, and the detective is always adept at picking locks. I mean, sure, I was no Columbo, but I could still hold my own in the whole lock-picking thing. That said, don’t tell my alma mater. Lock picking is illegal. And even online schools frown on their alumni committing crimes. Or at least getting caught doing so. Meaning, I learned from YouTube and practiced on my mom’s bathroom door and jewelry case—when she wasn’t at home. Mainly because Mom frowned on illegal activities as well, especially when they were done by her son, who the sun surely shined down upon, who the angels had blessed with all things wholesome and good, who walked around a trail of ants rather than stomp across them. FYI, I burned them with magnifying glasses when I was a kid. I prayed the angels were looking the other way at the time.
In any case, it was an old desk and a cheap lock, and there were bobby pins galore in that dressing room. Which is to say, Columbo would have been proud. Or maybe the fickle finger of fate was simply flipping someone off, preferably not me. And hey, I didn’t even need to put gloves on to hide my fingerprints because I was already wearing a pair—satin instead of rubber, but still.
The bobby pin went in, I did a few YouTube-inspired twists and turns, and, voila, I was in like Flynn. I quickly rummaged around inside. There was mostly jewelry inside, more expensive stuff, by the looks of it, then what was left on the counter-tops. There was some cash, too, but not much. Mostly, it was just knickknacks. Mostly. Mostly but not only.
“A key,” I said.
To which I got a rattling reply of, “What are you doing, Mary?”
I turned right quick and shut the makeup table door. Chad was standing there, not yet Lucy. Chad wasn’t supposed to be there. Chad had already done his two days. “First day on the job,” I replied, keeping my voice even, not speaking too fast, trying not to look guilty. I was good at that. I’d practiced, lying to baristas, to store clerks, meter maids. Making shit up off the fly. Takes some getting used to. When most people lie, you can tell. Politicians are good at it because they do it so often. Takes training, is what I’m getting at. Me, I was trained. Online, sure, but trained nonetheless. “Looking for some space for my valuables.” I tinkled my earrings his way. They were my mom’s. Valuable was a matter of opinion, namely mom’s. eBay might have a different take on it.
He nodded as he walked in the room. “That’s my makeup table.” Chad didn’t seem as nice as Lucy. Maybe the wig did it. Turned on some nice-switch inside his brain. Lucy always seemed to be smiling. Chad definitely wasn’t as he drew nearer.
“I’m filling in for Connie,” I said. “Isn’t this her table, too?”
Chad shook his head. He eyed the now-closed drawer nervously. Chad, it seemed, wasn’t trained like I was. “That one,” he said, pointing at the table next to his. He grabbed for the drawer. It opened, of course. “This was locked.”
I shrugged. “Not just now. Maybe you forgot.”
He squinted at me. It was weird. We were friends, of a sort, except he suddenly looked anything but friendly. He thought to say something. His mouth began to move, then stopped. A smile appeared. Even out of drag, there was still this strange sadness behind it. He breathed. He seemed to have counted to ten, given that about ten seconds had gone by. “Yeah, I must’ve forgotten to lock it. My bad, Mary.” He reached out his hand. “Congrats on the gig.” The smile widened. “Chad, by the way.”
I shook his hand. “You make a nice boy.”
He chuckled. “I’ll tell my parents you said so.”
on Bayou Book Junkie:
Rob Rosen dons a pair of Louboutins and gallops along full-pelt in this high-spirited story. He delivers quirky PI/drag queen realness with dollops of tea, shade, and a non-formulaic story that flows well and delivers much. It definitely has you wanting to know what happens in the end, and why, because the mystery is a major arc. Shantay, Mary, you stay. I hope you come back soon for more adventures - and bring your Ma with you. 5 Stars!
MelanieM on Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words wrote:
I love Rob Rosen. His books always make me laugh out loud and are so fun and entertaining. Mary, Queen of Scotch was witty and clever, well-written and thought-out, and the characters absolutely lovable. Barry's case is definitely intriguing and will keep you guessing. There is plenty to draw you into this story and keep you hooked until the end. 5 Stars!
As always, Rosen's characters are a roll-call of complexity, grittiness, depth, and, brash pizazz! Most of them have been through the worst and still get back up on their Louboutins and start lip-syncing. How I love his drag queens! This author gets under the skin of what it feels like to be a drag queen, to be part of the sisterhood, and pulls the reader in as well. I love this author, and Mary, Queen of Scotch is simply another great reason why. The writing is wonderful, the plot interesting and well made, and the characters are easy to take to heart. I highly recommend it.