From Anthony Award-winning writer Alex Segura comes Secret Identity, a rollicking literary mystery set in the world of comic books.
It’s 1975 and the comic book industry is struggling, but Carmen Valdez doesn’t care. She’s an assistant at Triumph Comics, which doesn’t have the creative zeal of Marvel nor the buttoned-up efficiency of DC, but it doesn’t matter. Carmen is tantalizingly close to fulfilling her dream of writing a superhero book.
That dream is nearly a reality when one of the Triumph writers enlists her help to create a new character, which they call “The Lethal Lynx,” Triumph’s first female hero. But her colleague is acting strangely and asking to keep her involvement a secret. And then he’s found dead, with all of their scripts turned into the publisher without her name. Carmen is desperate to piece together what happened to him, to hang on to her piece of the Lynx, which turns out to be a runaway hit. But that’s complicated by a surprise visitor from her home in Miami, a tenacious cop who is piecing everything together too quickly for Carmen, and the tangled web of secrets and resentments among the passionate eccentrics who write comics for a living.
Alex Segura uses his expertise as a comics creator as well as his unabashed love of noir fiction to create a truly one-of-a-kind novel–hard-edged and bright-eyed, gritty and dangerous, and utterly absorbing.
What’s it about (in a nutshell):
Secret Identity by Alex Segura is a boldly daring and creative take on a noir-style murder mystery set in the 1970s comic book publishing world.
What I Enjoyed:
I love the comic pages about The Lynx interspersed throughout the story. They represent Carmen’s struggles in a superhero format and intriguingly add to the character development. They also read as a love letter to comics by the author who used to work in the comic book industry. I read comic books as a kid, but mostly Archie and similar. However, I realize I could easily have enjoyed comics such as The Lynx and what an outstanding role model they would have been.
Written in a hard-boiled noir slow-build style but without a professional detective, Secret Identity is a murder mystery set in the 1970s. This style and period bring about complex thematic struggles that still ring true today. Segura handles themes such as sexual identity, the plight of immigrants, and the glass ceiling phenomenon (which was much lower, then) skillfully and relevantly to illicit plenty of emotions from me over the various plights and struggles.
The story also genuinely explored the world of comics and authentically displayed the world for what it was – warts and all. I never thought about making a comic or how complicated the process truly is. I came out of the story which a much more knowledgeable appreciation and a desire to read superhero comics.
Let’s not forget, at its base, this is a mystery novel. I enjoyed this excellent mystery that connects all the components, including the Lynx comic, by the jaw-dropping conclusion. I did not figure out who did it or why -at least not the correct person and/or reason- being happily led down the red herring path. But boy, the conclusion came up with a dangerous bang that kept those pages turning.
Secret Identity is a character-driven story. It is a complex character study of a Cuban-American lesbian in the 1970s in New York. That can be a lot to take in, but it is fascinating and filled with ingenious nuances that made it feel authentic; put it this way – it would not surprise me to find a real Carmen Valdez out there in the world.
Carmen Valdez is determined, intelligent, and not afraid to stand up for herself. She has always dreamed of writing comic books since they played a significant role in her formative years. Nothing and no one can get between her and her dream, even though plenty try.
Reminds Me Of:
It’s an entirely original mashup of a hard-boiled noir mystery with an amateur detective, so I guess I would call it a soft-boiled noir mystery. I have never come across this before that I can recall.
What I Wish:
The comic pages are so good that I wish there had been more of them!!!
To Read or Not to Read:
If you love a complex character-driven mystery with solid themes and find the world of comics intriguing, you will want to pick up the latest book by Alex Segura and just sit back and enjoy.