Cover of Death Prefers Blondes. The upper face of a blonde woman, with a burglar's mask and cap

About the Book

Title: Death Prefers Blondes
Published: 2019

Cover Story: Kind of a Drag
Drinking Buddy: Hell Yes
MPAA Rating: Intense Action Sequences, Some Violence, Some Sexuality
Talky Talk: Ultimate Heist Book
Bonus Factors: Drag, Heist
Bromance Status: You go, girls!

Cover Story: Kind of a Drag

I like the stylized version of Margo’s face, though it doesn’t give us close to an idea of what the book is really about. I might have lost the Lone Ranger burglar mask as well, and added some over-the-top eye makeup.

The Deal:

Seventeen-year-old Margo Manning is used to having her face splashed all over the tabloids. As the daughter of a millionaire industrialist, she drives her father crazy with her drunken exploits, her brushes with the law, and with her lovers. But at night, she takes on the drag persona of Miss Anthropy. Not so she can perform at the Tuck, Marry, Kill Club, but so she can lead a team of highly skilled burglars in various high-stakes heists across the greater Los Angeles Area. Oh, and all the other burglars are actual drag performers: Anita Stiffwon, Electra Shoxx, Dior Galore, and Lisel von Tramp. Drag is the perfect cover: it makes a great disguise, and most witnesses think the burglars were actual women (Margo wears drag so as not to stand out).

But when Margo’s father dies of a mysterious illness, his company falls into the hands of a scheming underling. Something’s not right. Shadowed by the Russian Mafia, Margo must figure out exactly what happened to her father, while protecting her friends and possibly pulling off the most daring caper in their careers.

Drinking Buddy: Hell Yes

Two pints of beer cheersing

Though they would drink nothing so gauche as a beer. These burglars can break into any building (the book opens with a job at the Los Angeles Museum of Fine Art) and get away scott free, all while wearing wigs, heels, and flawless eye makeup.

The thing is, these guys are actually just Axel, Davon, Leif, and Joaquin. Unlike Margo, these boys don’t have money to burn. Leif is an aspiring ballet dancer, something his religious family objects to. How can he pay the tuition for his elite dance academy? Davon lived on the streets until Georgia, his drag mother, took him in and taught him the trade. But now Georgia has fallen into a pit of pills and booze, and owes money to some bad characters. How can Devon get her away from there? Brothers Axel and Joaquin are the sons of a notorious scam artist who stole money from pretty much all their classmates’ parents. While their father cools his heels in a minimum security prison, the brothers are now pariahs, struggling to care for their ailing mother. Alex strenuously objects to his younger brother joining the troupe, while Joaquin is desperate to prove himself, especially to sexy Leif.

Margo is in it for adventure, and later, revenge. The boys are fighting to exist.

MPAA Rating: Intense Action Sequences, Some Violence, Some Sexuality

Angry gangsters. High-tech break-ins. Devious female scientist. Scarred Russian fence. Corrupt businessmen. Untraceable poisons. A civil war in Malawi. A Cuban-Chinese adrenaline junkie named Dallas, who presses all of Margo’s buttons. Joaquin and Leif locked together in a car trunk.

This book has it all.

Talky Talk: Ultimate Heist Book

I love me a good heist book, and this one had everything. It was over-the-top, but not to the point of being absurd. Margo and the boys were at the top of the game, but are still confused and frightened teenagers when they’re off the job. The bad guys are evil, but…no, they’re pretty damn evil.

If I had one beef with this book, it would be the shifting POV. About 85% of the story is from Margo’s point of view, but we sometimes randomly switch to one of the boys or other characters. This enables us to see all sides of one of their capers, but the switches were jarring at times, especially when they happened mid-scene.

But c’mon. Drag queen burglars. Hello, Hollywood?

Bonus Factor: Drag

Brian, Sophie, and a draq queen dressed like a butterfly

Now drag as a burglar disguise has been used before, but for this gang, it’s far more than just a costume. The boys, who are all gay (Margo is bisexual), are serious performers in the down time. Their clothes, their makeup, their hair, their persona, are all the result of practice and intense self-expression. If I were a public librarian (I work at a public school), I’d invite these guys for a storytime, anytime.

Bonus Factor: Heist

Screenshot from Sneakers, with members of the team lined up for the mission

All of my real-world experience with burglars deals with meth heads breaking into my car to steal the change in the console. But Margo, who initially got into the game due to boredom and ennui, is a true professional. She’ll steal classic works or art, Russian jewels, high-tech prototypes, expensive cars, and anything else to make a profit. She generally turns her share over to the boys, or to her scientist Dr. Khan, who runs a free clinic. A true Robin Hood…or Robyn Hoode…c’mon, someone help me think of a drag name here.

Bromance Status: You go, girls!

While I have neither the skills nor the eyelashes to join this group, I can picture myself off on the sidelines, asking ‘Who was that mascara’ed man?’

Literary Matchmaking

The Glass Spare (The Glass Spare #1)

Lauren DeStefano’s The Glass Spare follows a cat burglar in a fantasy setting.

Chaotic Good

For some more crossdressing fun, read Whitney Gardner’s Chaotic Good.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Or Martyn Godfrey’s It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor a manicure for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.