Electras Complex by Emma Pérez is an erotic murder mystery and I can safely say I’ve never read anything like it before. There’s no romance whatsoever, and that’s not a complaint. This book is strange and often made me uneasy, but in such a good way that it kept me interested straight to the end.
Electra Campos is a history professor during the week and frequents Down Under, her local queer BDSM sex club, on the weekends. Although she doesn’t do relationships, preferring anonymous sex, she’d made a mistake when she tried one with Isabel Cortez.
One weekend she’s in the middle of enjoying herself with another woman when Isabel threatens to get back at her. Electra doesn’t think much of it until she finds her Dean the following Monday, murdered at his desk with his penis hanging out of his pants. The police have questions for her in the hours and days that follow, but Electra can’t seem to keep her mind off of Detective Carolina Quinn, even as she tries to do a little investigating of her own.
Electra is a brilliant woman who makes many stupid decisions, usually due to being led around by her libido. Apart from her best friend and colleague, Adrian, she doesn’t appear to be close to anyone and is frequently frustrated by the white, male, hetero jerks that fill the rest of her department.
Because the book is written in the first person from Electra’s perspective, it’s difficult to get much of a handle on most of the other characters. Carolina, however, is smart, sexy, and appears to genuinely care about Electra’s wellbeing.
The Writing Style
The writing is tight and crisp, never letting the reader sit back and get comfortable, and I was particularly impressed by the sex writing. I was told this is an erotic book, and it is, but in a way I couldn’t have anticipated. The sex doesn’t further any relationship and it doesn’t encourage one-handed reading. Instead, each sexual encounter left me unsettled, ratcheting up the tension as Electra went from partner to partner, hurtling ever closer toward learning who had murdered the Dean. Given the way sex scenes are used for the story and its tone, I thought it was a stroke of genius to nod towards the only sex I wanted to read about, rather than show it explicitly on the page.
Everything. Electras Complex is excellent. I particularly like that it includes characters of colour and a trans man. I also love that talking about it led my friend to coin my new favourite portamanteau, “murderotica.”
There’s a somewhat violent sex scene that I found off-putting and difficult to read. It’s entirely consensual and does a good job of furthering the tone, but I had a very hard time with that scene.
If you’ve been looking for a good lesbian murder mystery, look no further. Electras Complex is an excellent, if disquieting, book that I’ll be thinking about for a long time.
Excerpt from Electras Complex by Emma Pérez
“In our line of work, death is a breath away, Professor.”
“Wow. That’s too profound even for me, Detective.”
“It’s the truth. I only speak the truth. Or not at all.”
“Funny, I never thought you’d be at a loss for words. Seems you speak whether you need to or not.”
“Are you criticizing me, Electra?”
I had gotten a rise out of her. Nice. Now I knew her weak spot. The woman didn’t like to be criticized. But then again, who did?
“I’m not criticizing you at all, Carolina. I wouldn’t dare criticize someone who is quite nearly perfect.”
“Sure. Nearly perfect. Like Mary Poppins.”
“Mary Poppins? First Sherlock Holmes references and now Mary Poppins? Are you an Anglophile?”
“Indeed I am. An Anglophile from the colonies.”
We hung up and I felt manipulated. Carolina got information out of me even when I asked the questions.
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Note: I received a free review copy of this book for review. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.