Review of The Black Queen by Jumata Emill


The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

To be published on January 31, 2023 by Delacorte Press

Source: eARC from the publisher for review. 

Plot Summary for The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

Nova Albright, the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High, is dead. 

Murdered the night of her coronation, her body found the next morning in the old slave cemetery she spent her weekends rehabilitating.

Tinsley McArthur was supposed to be queen. 

Not only is she beautiful, wealthy, and white, it's her legacy--her grandmother, her mother, and even her sister wore the crown before her. 

Everyone in Lovett knows Tinsley would do anything to carry on the McArthur tradition.

No one is more certain of that than Duchess Simmons, Nova's best friend. 

Duchess's father is the first Black police captain in Lovett. For Duchess, Nova's crown was more than just a win for Nova. It was a win for all the Black kids. 

Now her best friend is dead, and her father won't face the fact that the main suspect is right in front of him. Duchess is convinced that Tinsley killed Nova--and that Tinsley is privileged enough to think she can get away with it. 

But Duchess's father seems to be doing what he always does: fall behind the blue line. Which means that the white girl is going to walk.

Duchess is determined to prove Tinsley's guilt. And to do that, she'll have to get close to her.

Review of The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

The Black Queen by Jumata Emill was a great blend of a truly puzzling mystery, a compelling main character, and social justice themes that were well-incorporated into the plot.

After Hurricane Katrina, a large group of Black students were sent to Lovett High. Tensions grew between the new students and the rest of the student body, largely white.

The school adopted measures to make things more fair, designating that the homecoming queen should alternate between an AP student (white) and a regular track student (Black). 

Of course, this caused some upset, especially to white Tinsley McArthur, whose mother and sister were homecoming queens.

Nova Albright is crowned queen, but ends up dead, and her best friend Duchess Simmons is determined to prove that Tinsley was the killer.

Not only does The Black Queen do a great job of sketching out all the racial tensions in town, the book also uses the plot to touch on the inequities in the criminal justice system.

Another thing I thought made the book especially interesting was that it was told in alternating chapters from Tinsley's and Duchess's points of view. These two girls are not fans of one another (at all!) but are forced to work together to solve the murder, as Tinsley insists that she is innocent.

Is she? I won't tell, but along the way, Tinsley learns a lot about her Black classmates and the challenges they face. The book doesn't pull any punches, calling Tinsley and other white characters out for problematic opinions and actions. 

The mystery had me guessing, but the character development in The Black Queen was really what made the book shine.  

Highly recommended to mystery fans!