Book Reviews

Review: The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

I love a good murder mystery and The Black Queen delivers. A series of circumstances that seem picture perfect always hide a sinister secret. This is one of those books which not only makes your blood boil with the tragedy, but also racism. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Nova Albright was going to be the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High—but now she’s dead. Murdered on coronation night. Fans of One of Us Is Lying and The Other Black Girl will love this unputdownable thriller.

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 fact 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.

But Tinsley has an agenda, too.

Everyone loved Nova. And sometimes, love is exactly what gets you killed.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: racism

The Black Queen is nuanced. On the surface, the synopsis screams murder and thrills. And while that is undeniably a huge element and one that seriously had me staying up past my bedtime. But it’s also a book that is rooted in characters. In the tragedy of Nova’s death, but also the factors, secrets, racism, and history that lead up to it. Or in Duchess’ desires to find her best friend’s killer while also coming to terms with her dad’s position as a black policeman. And even Tinsley whose twist of fortune could lead her on a journey which might cause her to examine her own life more closely.

The racism will make you see red. The ways it comes at these teens from all levels: the school, society, the news, the teachers, the board. Everywhere. As a person of color who grew up in the United States, it wasn’t something I hadn’t encountered. But it never fails to make steam come out of my ears. Told in multiple POV, The Black Queen is a story about history and secrets. There’s a distinct mystery and suspense as we have to figure out what happened to Nova.

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Yet at the same time, it’s rooted in Tinsley’s own journey to see herself, and the world, more clearly. And for Duchess to navigate her own feelings of grief and also when the ones we trust betray us. I could not stop reading. If you’re looking for a mystery story firmly rooted in our world with conversations about racism, privilege, and friendship, this is a must read. Find The Black Queen on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon, Indiebound,, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite YA Contemporary Mystery?

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