Critical Response

Queenpin (2007)

"Noir’s reigning crown princess delivers a royally entertaining rumination on toxic female friendships set in the harsh neon underbelly of early-1960s Las Vegas. The tale of an avaricious assistant to a Virginia Hill–style Mob courier unfolds so cinematically it’s difficult not to picture it onscreen—perhaps pitched as The Grifters meets Casino, with Sharon Stone and Scarlett Johansson under the leering direction of Quentin Tarantino."

—Frank Sennett, Booklist

"Faster than a blue-haired octogenarian losing her retirement money on the Vegas slots and as calloused as a gravedigger's hands, Queenpin is pure pulp noir; a gloriously brutal and seductive story that—like the dysfunctional relationship between the novel's young female protagonist and her grifter lover— roughs you up a little and not only makes you like it but leaves you wanting more."

—Paul Goat Allen, Chicago Tribune

"Edgar-finalist Abbott delivers a sharp, slender, hardboiled tale of a protégé’s schooling by a notorious, been-there-done-that moll. . . . Abbott is pitch-perfect throughout: Gloria Denton, still turning heads in her 40s, is as hard a moll as any, and the kid is a beautiful combination of foil and tool as she strives to emulate her role model. The collision, violent and inevitable, rips away the facade of glitz and glamour, and leaves their low-end edifice starkly exposed."

—Publishers Weekly

"If Megan Abbott writes half a dozen more books as good as her first three ("Die a Little" and "The Song Is You" are period-piece perfection), she will claim the throne as the finest prose stylist in crime fiction since Raymond Chandler. This novella, a distinctly distaff homage to the lurid glories of 1950s paperbacks, is a splendidly simple but extravagantly sensual noir coming-of-age story about a young woman's dangerous apprenticeship to a female gangster. Imagine Hayley Mills possessed by Jim Thompson."

—Eddie Muller, San Francisco Chronicle

"Acts of stunning brutality, all retold in the narrator's hipster voice, reveal the ugliness behind the glitz as a little girl grows up. Abbott produces another stunning, hardboiled heroine."

—Kirkus Review

"A new star is rising in the midnight sky of noir fiction, and her name is Megan Abbott. With Queenpin Abbott has established herself solidly in the tradition of her influences: James Ellroy, James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler. If Cain boiled down Ellroy’s complicated mixture of people, places and themes, dashed in his trademark cynicism and moral ambiguity, and filtered the brew with Chandler’s masterful use of slang and dialogue, the result might have the flavor of Abbott’s fiction."

—Timothy J. Lockhart, The Virginian-Pilot

Dig Megan Abbott's Queenpin, so chock-full of tough talk and high-stakes thrills that it hums. In an unnamed city and uncertain period, an ambitious young dame (I use the word advisedly) falls in with an aging but formidable underworld figure, with satisfyingly twisted results.

—Adam Woog, The Seattle Times

"In the sly and stylish Queenpin, Megan Abbott gives a feminine spin to hard- boiled crime, crafting a tale of grifters and their marks."

—Sandra Kent, Boston Herald

"This book screams summer sizzle. Abbott is a good writer with a gift for careening into character development even as revs up the plot."

—John Mark Eberhart, Kansas City Star

"[I]t’s the gorgeous descriptive qualities of the narrator’s world view that pull the reader firmly into her lair. Abbott is perhaps the eminent hardboiled writer today, and she might be the logical heir apparent to Hammett and Chandler."

—Anthony Rainone, Lincoln Journal Star

"Abbott’s fascinating exploration of the narrator’s psyche keeps the pages turning, and there’s a savage inevitability here, a magnet pull towards destruction....Abbott’s wonderfully amoral ending does not disappoint, and those of us who love noir fiction recognize that Abbott is an exciting new voice for this genre."

—Guy Savage, Mostly

Megan Abbott was born in the wrong time, since she writes like she was a compatriot of the Chandlers and Hammetts of the world. With Queenpin, her third novel, she shows no sign of slowing down in style or substance.

—Bruce Grossman,

Abbott dishes up in her third novel stiletto heels, pointed, deadly, and good over small distances, leaving readers looking for more. This is All About Eve pulped to a fare-thee-well à la Jim Thomson.

—Bob Lunn, Library Journal, starred review

"A stunning achievement. With Queenpin, her third superb book, Megan Abbott proves beyond all doubt she is the new Queen of Noir."

—Ken Bruen, author of Priest and American Skin

"Subtle, seductive, stunningly violent, this perfectly executed hardboiled tale of complex relationships between grifters is a stone-cold classic."

—Allan Guthrie, author of Hard Man (2007) and Kiss Her Goodbye (2005)

"Classy, daring, and alluringly amoral, Abbott's portrayal of a woman desperate for the 'good life' illuminates the deep motives of a femme fatale, as she chooses tough over soft and pleasure within pain in order to satisfy her thrill-seeking personality in an era when opportunities are scarce. A slick, murderous adventure with passion enough to draw any reader inside."

—Vicki Hendricks, author of Cruel Poetry and Miami Purity

"Megan Abbott's Queenpin is one of the best noir novels I've read in years. I felt like I was reading a great Gold Medal novel, from the heyday of crime fiction, yet with an entirely fresh spin. It reminded me of the best work of Cain and Chandler. I didn't read Queenpin, I devoured it."

—Jason Starr, author of The Follower

Included as one of four summer page-turners by Melony Vance of Latitude 33 bookstore in Laguna Beach, CA.

—Valerie Takahama, Orange County Register

Included as one of three summer picks by Bonnie Hearn Hill, author of Off the Record.

—Don Mayhew, The Fresno Bee

The Song is You (2007)

January Magazine--Pierce's Pick

"A chilling second novel from Edgar-nominated Abbott spins the conventions of noir fiction into something fast, fierce and fresh ... a whiz-bang adventure through Tinseltown's underbelly.

"With abundant style and a tight convincing story, Abbott provides a retro thrill ride. ... Cain and Chandler are evoked in the rough-and-tumble period language ... but Abbott has her own voice, avoiding the genre's macho conventions, to evoke the young women who live 'in a gasp of tension.'"

—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"From its absolutely gorgeous, period-perfect cover to its evocative portrait of the 1940s Hollywood studio system in action, Megan Abbott's new novel is a sensual feast."

—Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune

"The book leaves no doubt that Abbott is an artful practitioner of fem noir. This one will heat up a winter night at International Falls."

—Jay Waggoner, Deadly Pleasures

"I thought I was an ace student when it came to Hollywood Babylon-type stories, but [with The Song Is You] Megan leaves me in the dust. Leaves me in the dust, throws her Lucky in my face and grinds it out with a dainty twist of her stiletto."

—Laura Lippman , author of To the Power of Three, Every Secret Thing

"Megan Abbott continues to be my absolute favorite new author, and her second novel, The Song Is You, is even better than her first—super-sexy, superbly written, richly atmospheric, and with an ending you'll never see coming!"

—Lisa Scottoline, author of Dirty Blonde, Devil's Corner

"Sex, drugs and glamour, it's like a 242-page US Weekly from the '40s."

— Marie Claire

"Few novels break your heart, and even fewer mystery ones. This one broke me heart ... in smithereens. Such a wrenching poetic noir vision of loss and regret I've rarely encountered. Written in a style of such conversational élan, you nearly miss the absolute artistry. Superb evocation of the era and the legendary characters live and breathe in glorious dark reality. Megan Abbott is the song and a song of such yearning, such granite tenderness ... This is the most poignant novel you'll ever come across."

—Ken Bruen, author of The Dramatist, The Guards

"....even better [than Die a Little]. ... with a spellbinding retro-milieu. Abbott has a real flair for the era's lingo and style, which she renders with a breathless sensual elegance."

—Eddie Muller, San Francisco Chronicle (Read More)

Die a Little (2005)

Read about the movie version of Die a Little in the Los Angeles Times

January Magazine--Pierce's Pick of the Week

Good Housekeeping "Good Reads" pick November 2005

Click here to read "Four new books ready-made for creating celluloid heroes" (Kirkus Reviews, Hollywood Reporter)

“[Abbott's Die a Little] gives us the true dark heart of the city in sharply contrasted blacks and whites, dense with heartache. … In these tasty noir stylings, you can almost smell the smoke and hear the clinking of ice cubes.”

—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Oh boy, a stylish and sensuous trawl through 1954 Hollywood where the studio glamour ... overlay its seedy flip-side. Spin was the name of the game. Abbott has a great voice for the story of two orphans: a devoted schoolteacher sister of a stalwart junior investigator with the DA. Lora is suspicious of Bill's new bride. Is pretty, fluffy seamstress Alice a good girl and good for Bill? Or is she a femme fatale from the studio costume department masquerading as a perfect housewife?"

Poisoned Pen, First Novel Pick

"If James M. Cain were writing episodes of Desperate Housewives, he would have written this noir tale of a brother and sister who become involved with shady characters in 1950s Los Angeles."

Black Orchid Bookstore (NYC).

“Finally, here is a modern noir that perfectly depicts Raymond Chandler’s 1950s L.A. in all its seamy, sexy corruption…. Megan Abbott’s Die a Little mixes a potent cocktail of jealousy, obsession and danger.”

—Lisa Scottoline, author of Killer Smile

“Die a Little sets the bar high for everything that follows this year. This one is already at the top of my list for best of the year."

—Thomas McNulty, Mystery News

"Megan Abbott's spectacular first novel Die a Little is the kind of book that should make devotees of Cain and Chandler fall down and beg for mercy."

—Hollywood Reporter

"Abbott, author of a nonfiction study of hard-boiled literature and film, crafts a stylish, sensuous tale with picture-perfect period trappings."

—Publishers Weekly

"... a tale that smolders like the night's last, forgotten cigarette."

—Booklist, American Library Association

"Few psychological thrillers, by writers of either sex, offer such material, sensual, delicious catalogs of food, clothing, hairstyles, and especially kitchenware. In Abbott's hands, casserole dishes, folding chairs, and a 'Cornwall Thermo Tray with gold finish and wooden handles for serving hot artichoke hors d'oeuvres and tuna squares' have never seemed so sexy."

—Alexis Soloski, The Village Voice

"Abbott has fashioned a noir thriller that may remind readers of James M. Cain's brooding melodramas. She need not fear the comparison. Her story, rendered in a captivatingly off-beat style, crackles with suspense, and her portrait of L.A. in the 1950s, a seductive mixture of sleaze and sophistication, rings all-too-sadly true."

—Robert Wade, San Diego Union-Tribune

"Die a Little is a first novel, but you'll assume Megan Abbott is a seasoned vet. Her book is that good—reminiscent of the hard-edged naturalism of James M. Cain. ... The year 2005 is still new, but Abbott is already Rookie of the Year."

—Les Roberts, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"[O]ld-school noir at its finest, but with a nifty gender switch that gives the story extra oomph. ... Die a Little packs a mean little punch. And, like the best work in this genre, it lingers long after the last page."

—David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle

"Sexy, suspenseful, and effortlessly evocative of Hollywood's sleazy underbelly, [Die a Little] delivers all the smoky atmospherics a good noir should ..."


"Die a Little takes us back to more innocent days, in which a smear of lipstick on a bed sheet still has the power to shock, men in sharkskin warn you that, honest, you don't know what you're getting yourself into, and a femme fatale with a mouth 'like one gorgeous scar across her face' dabbles in the darkest treachery without spilling her drink or smudging her makeup.

—Mary Harrison, Philadelphia Inquirer

"a chilling tale of how quickly the line between good and bad blurs. ... Die A Little is too smart to tell simple stories. Instead, Abbott layers in subtext and menace, murder and blackmail to demonstrate [her main character's] descent into blackness, and her secret welcoming of this shady world that engulfs her. ... Abbott's debut is a welcome treat."

—Sarah Weinman, Baltimore Sun

"Written in the style of the hard-boiled detective genre, Abbott gives her noir a big shot of estrogen. ... like an L.A. Confidential told from a distinctly feminine point-of-view. But in Abbott’s noir not all sexually active women are femme fatales, and the innocent aren’t always all that innocent after all."

—Sarah Vance, Bookslut

The Street Was Mine (2002)

"...that rare combination--smart and accessible, challenging and downright fun to read. Megan Abbott's analysis ... connects all the dots in relating gender, sexuality and race relations in the popular culture of urban America—it represents the state of the art in contemporary cultural studies."

—Lisa Duggan, Professor of American Studies and History, New York University

"Abbott has produced a useful, elegantly simple genealogy of the hardboiled hero that should enable more scholars and teachers to make sense of the genre. This study courageously moves back and forth across gender and race lines, and successfully delineates the need for containment of the violent, anti-bourgeois hardboiled hero both inside and outside the text. ... her categories and tropes have contemporary relevance (and resonances) for any readings of neo-noir films, detective novels, urban thrillers, and the ongoing fascination of American audiences for the white male rebel loners."

—Joel Dinerstein, Ithaca College

"The Street Was Mine captures the danger, the aura, the smoky isolation of hardboiled fiction and film noir. Megan Abbott exposes the instabilities of race, gender and sexuality that make the 'tough guy' ... seem not so tough after all. ... Arguing that 'popular literature can be dangerous' Abbott contributes to our understanding of U.S. popular culture from the Depression to the Cold War era, from pulp fiction to Hollywood cinema."

—Carolyn Dever, Professor of English, Vanderbilt University