Cover Image: The Boy in the Red Dress

The Boy in the Red Dress

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

A queer historical fiction murder-mystery set in and around a 1920s speakeasy.

Millie’s best friend Marion is accused of murdering a young socialite on New Year’s Eve. Now it’s up to Millie to solve the case and save Marion’s life because this is 1930, and no one is about to give a gay man and drag headliner a fair trial. Millie herself is bisexual and lives with her lesbian aunt, who owns the Cloak & Dagger, an LQBTQIA+ inclusive speakeasy in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Millie is fierce, independent, and hardened, a side effect of having an absent mom who cares more about the carousel of guys in her life than her only daughter.

Expertly crafted, the novel sings with the vestiges of 1920s atmosphere, lush and evocative with all the glitz and glamor we associate with the Roaring Twenties…. as well as the crime — bootlegging, moonshine, gangsters. Creating a world you can easily imagine yourself into as Millie (and friends) hunts for the real killer. The focus is on found family, friendship with a dash of romance. The pace is reminiscent of Agatha Christie, with plenty of twists that will keep you guessing until the very end. A joy to read and an impressive debut.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks for the digital ARC! This was a fun read. I love the idea of a 1920s speakeasy run primarily by the LGBT community. The murder mystery was pretty good. I loved Marian and his friendship with Millie. 
I think the only thing that took me out of the story a bit was Olive’s character choices. Being a woman of color in the 1920s would have been far from simple, but being lesbian on top of it? She would have major problems. She acted far too casual with her attraction to Millie. I know it was supposed to be pro LGBT and that’s amazing but historical accuracy is important to me. The fact that Olive gets mad at Millie for pulling away? Even if she thought nobody was watching, they were STILL kissing in public. Not only were same sex relationships were frowned upon, mixed race relationships were straight up illegal. Especially in the south! It just astounded me that Olive was so aggressive when she was the one who would have likely been more secretive and cautious with Millie. 
Overall this was enchanting. I wish Millie was able to get more closure with her mother.
Was this review helpful?
The Boy in the Red Dress is a great read. I loved the focus on queer characters and the author absolutely brought the world to life. I felt the mystery was well drawn out and had me guessing more than a few times as to who the murderer was. I could read a 15 book series of these characters solving crimes and crushing prejudices.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Penguin Teen for giving me the opportunity to read this as a Teen Partner!
"A bullet hole appeared in the ceiling, and plaster sprinkled down on Olive's hair like powdered sugar on a beignet."
The Boy in the Red Dress is a slow burning murder mystery set in the 1920's. It has a cast of colorful characters and is a book I highly recommend for the LGBTQ+ community. With that I will say that there are definite trigger warnings to look out for including homophobia, a mental institution that considers itself as a cure all for being gay, and murder.


Our main character's name is Millie and she is a Bi murder investigator in training (okay, shes not really in training but she makes a decent sleuth).Millie takes it upon herself to rescue her friend Marion who is being investigated for a murder that happens in their nightclub. Did I mention that Marion is gay and loves drag? Well they do! I think what makes this 1920's story even more unique is the fact that the speakeasy is LGBTQ+ friendly including its owner who happens to be Millie's queer aunt.


The Boy in the Red Dress is a very slow burn. So, if you like your thriller/murder mysteries fast paced I don't recommend this one being for you. I could not put this one down. It was so good up till the very end. I gave this book a 3.5/5 stars mainly because I was a little disappointed with the murderer.I felt like the evidence just didn't really align for me. And it was upsetting. I think that was my biggest bone to pick though. Other than that the characters really made this book.


I truly enjoyed this one. Overall I loved that it was a historical fiction mixed with some murder and sprinkled with a dash of romance. It was exceptionally written and it was so nice to see the author make a cast of characters that weren't defined by their labels.
Was this review helpful?
The Boy in the Red Dress had everything I wanted in a story. I loved the 1920’s atmosphere, the mystery and the characters. Plus that cover was awesome looking!

The story centers around Millie, a bisexual young women helping her aunt run their queer speakeasy in 1929. When Millie’s best friend, and resident drag performer, Marion, becomes the prime suspect in a murder at the club, it falls to Millie to prove his innocence. I loved the friendship between Millie and Marion, but I mostly loved how strong and loyal Millie was. 

This was definitely a fun mystery, which kept me on my toes the entire time. I highly recommend this one!
Was this review helpful?
The Boy in the Red Dress
by Kristin Lambert

I absolutely enjoyed this historical murder mystery set in the late 1920's NOLA's French Quarter with an LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in the story - think about a queer YA Miss Fisher like story that is an absolute joy to read about. I loved this so much I devoured in a day. This is an amazing debut novel that I have been recommending a lot. I enjoyed the amazing characters, the time frame and setting, the story with a strong character all set in a twisty murder mystery. Read this you will enjoy it!
Was this review helpful?
Kristin Lambert’s debut novel is set in New Orleans and details the aftermath of a young socialite’s murder on New Year’s Eve in 1929. It’s narrated by 17-year-old Millie Coleman, who is put in charge of her aunt’s speakeasy, the Cloak and Dagger, at the last minute on their busiest night of the year. The celebrations quickly turn awry when Millie finds 18-year-old Arimentha (Minty) McDonough lying dead in the courtyard after obviously having been pushed off of a balcony. Obviously, the search for the killer soon starts, and initially it seems as though Millie’s friend, a talented yet mild-mannered drag queen named Marion Leslie, is guilty. Millie isn’t convinced though, and as the reader, it’s hard to imagine Marion killing Minty, even if she was holding a photo of him when her body was found. He comes across as too mellow and level-headed to do such a thing, but we soon learn that he–along with everybody else in this story–has some secrets. The Boy in the Red Dress is a classic whodunit in the style of Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark, and the story relies heavily on Millie unearthing a web of secrets and lies. She’s a rough around the edges, tomboyish, bisexual Nancy Drew-esque character who also undergoes a lot of personal growth over the course of the story. As she learns the secrets of New Orleans’s elite, Millie also learns the importance of communication and begins to examine why she is so emotionally guarded. Even if the murder investigation in this story isn’t relatable to many people, I think many will relate to Millie’s character arc (I certainly did to an extent).

Though The Boy in the Red Dress is a murder mystery, it is also a fun read. Lambert expounds upon the best of teenage impulsivity by having Millie and company enact some delightfully rash methods to find answers (think posing as a society column writer and attempting to lift up floorboards to find secret diaries). I loved Millie’s ragtag group of friends who all have something different to contribute to the investigation, even if they screw up royally sometimes. At the end of the day, though, this book will leave you wondering: who killed Minty McDonough? There are lots of red herrings, potential suspects, and reputation-ruining secrets to keep you guessing.
Was this review helpful?
Reasons to read The Boy in the Red Dress:
🕵🏻‍♀️ historical murder mystery
🥂 set in a speakeasy in NOLA’s French Quarter
🌚 LGBTQIA+ inclusiveness in a historical setting
💕 when Millie’s best friend, Marion, is accused of murder, Millie’s loyalty drives her to investigate and clear his name
💃🏽 Marion stars in the speakeasy’s drag show and makes his own costumes
🖤 Millie has M & F love interests!

This was such an awesome mystery! The setting is brilliant — it opens in an LGBTQIA+/inclusive speakeasy in the French Quarter of New Orleans on New Year’s Eve, 1929. The club is owned and run by the MC’s aunt, who is in a committed F/F relationship. I love that the speakeasy is called Cloak & Dagger and the way it’s written as a safe haven within a larger, unfriendly world. This was both a fun mystery and a beautiful story of friendship and belonging. Highly recommended!

Thank you Penguin Teen for providing an advanced e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this novel!

Rating: 4.5 stars
Rep: bisexual mc, gay and lesbian side characters, poc and queer side characters. 

I adore queer historical fiction, even more so when it's YA. This is a stunning little book set during the roaring twenties, following Millie, the bisexual niece of a speakeasy owner. When Millie's aunt tasks her with running the place for the night, all hell breaks loose when one of the patrons is murdered. Part murder mystery and part historical fiction, "The Boy in the Red Dress" follows the themes of friendship, found family and fighting for what's right. 

I loved every single character, and that's pretty rare for me! The writing style was stunning and super fast-paced, I was mostly engaged throughout, though my attention waned a little during the middle, it definitely picked up again very quickly though! 

I was a little bit apprehensive about this book having a love triangle as I'm not a fan of that trope at all. But this year I've been wanting to read a couple of books with that trope, especially queer love triangles. I thought the author handled this one beautifully. Romance is definitely not the focal point here, while subtle, it is there in the background, I personally liked that it wasn't a main issue. 

Even though this is set in the 1920s, there is little to no homophobia present which was very refreshing. Being queer is the norm for these characters. Millie as a detective though, I have to say that she would make a pretty bad one. Every time she meets a new suspective she just tells them exactly what she's doing and what she knows so far...I'm surprised she solved the case at all. 

The thing that really shines through for me is the friendship between Marion and Millie, they were brilliant characters and I adored their interactions and relationship! 

Overall, a great YA debut by an author I won't hesitate to pick up more from in the future!
Was this review helpful?
Lambert had me hooked from the very first page, instantly grabbing my attention and never really letting me go from there. As this is a mystery, it proves tricky to review without giving too much away, but I will try my best!

The character were all really well-crafted and three-dimensional, feeling incredibly real and relatable. Lambert’s writing shone through them with sparkling dialogue and believable relationships. It’s relatively fast-paced, but allows moments for the story to breathe and for us to get to know the characters that bit more. The setting feels rich and vividly imagined, so much so that you can practically inhale the smoky perfume of the speakeasy. 

This is an #ownvoices LGBTQ+ historical mystery and you can really feel that in the seamless representation within the book. The Cloak & Dagger feels like this safe space where people can be their true selves and it feels like a family. A lot of the time historical fiction centres around white heteronormative voices and it’s refreshing to have loads of casual LGBT+ representation, while also including characters of colour and discussing the intersections of these identities. Olive, one of my favourite characters, disucsses white privilege with Millie and how her race and sexuality intersect. Lambert doesn’t shy away from addressing racism, police brutality and homophobia; it is far from a romanticised view of the past and hammers home how sadly these issues are still alive and present in modern day society. A lot of the book discusses themes of family, loyalty and love in such a brilliant way. 

In terms of the mystery, I thought it was really well-plotted with some great twists. As a bit of a mystery aficionado, I devour a lot of thrilling stories but The Boy in the Red Dress really stood out amongst the rest for me.
Was this review helpful?
This is a gripping read full of colorful characters, especially a compelling main character. In addition to the mystery aspect being well thought-out enough to keep the reader guessing the whole time, the characters and their relationships with each other are very well-rounded. While juggling trying to clear her best friend's name, the main character also has to grapple with the resentment she has towards her mother who suddenly has to stay with her, and overall, there are several relationships that are strained throughout the story that are all tied up well by the end.
Was this review helpful?
It's hard to believe this sophisticated, atmospheric, and immersive historical is a debut! The mystery plot and the character relationships are beautifully balanced and equally compelling; language and period details are spot on; and the fierce narrative voice grabs you from the first page and doesn't let go. Add to that a hefty dose of Jazz Age glamour, and you have a must-read for mystery fans, lovers of historical fiction, and anyone who enjoys a clever and exciting coming-of-age story.
Was this review helpful?
I am absolutely smitten with this book! Yes, it's a murder mystery set in jazz age New Orleans at a queer speakeasy during Prohibition, but it's really about acceptance, the family you choose, and rewriting history that has erased and systematically removed queer and other marginalized people from existence. Yeah, I felt nothing but empowered while reading this whodunnit, and although the victim is a wealthy socialite, as the story progresses we learn more about her and the motivations that lead to the night of her death. I shall say no more but instead dive into the rest of this book and its rainbow cast of characters.

Millie works at The Cloak and Dagger, a queer speakeasy owned by her lesbian aunt where the star, Marion, performs each night to an adoring crowd. Marion is beautiful, glamorous, and also a boy, which of course means the police are quick to pin the murder on him. However Millie ain't no slouch, and is determined to fight against the injustice of the false accusations against her best friend by solving the murder herself. This leads her to do some crime, lie (a lot), and brandish a switchblade, all while wearing dapper suspenders and being Very Bisexual aka getting into loads of trouble to protect the people she loves. Millie has her own deep scars that need healing, but first she must solve the case.

"There's not a single regular at the Cloak who hasn't been ... made to feel ashamed of who they are at some point in their lives."

I felt very at home in this fun historical mystery and think teen readers are going to fall head over heels for it! Thank you Penguin Teen for the review copy. Quote taken from finished book.
Was this review helpful?
This book is good, but it's not like "wow, I  didn't expect that coming". It's a 'One of Us is Lying' wannabe but in 20th century.
Was this review helpful?
A dazzling mystery from start to finish with a vivid tour of historical New Orleans and a cast of characters you'll wish you could be friends with in real life.
Was this review helpful?
This book was such a wild ride and I loved it! It has absolutely everything you'd want from an #ownvoices queer historical murder mystery set against the backdrop of a queer-friendly speakeasy in 1920's New Orleans. (If fireworks didn't go off in your mind at least five times reading that sentence, I'm not sure we can be friends.) With a headstrong bisexual amateur sleuth at the helm, this story kept me in its grips from start to finish.

From disguises and half-baked schemes to code-busting and cornering suspects, this mystery kept me guessing through and through. Not only is it a satisfying whodunnit, but it's one of those well-crafted mysteries that deepens your understanding of the victim and the accused with every new development.

Not only that, but it's empowering to see a mystery where the characters' determination to catch the killer stems from a desire to overcome injustice. This story challenges common ideas of who is guilty (the marginalized) and who is innocent (the systemically privileged). It's convenient for the cops to pin a drag queen performer as a murderer, but Millie will do whatever it takes to make those officials eat their words.

This is a story of family, loyalty, and love. It's about Millie and her friends fighting to defend those who cannot defend themselves and those who are silenced beyond measure. It's about rewriting queer people into the history they've been erased from, and giving the reader hope that justice isn't only reserved for those who can afford it.

A darkly charming, intense, twisty mystery until the very end, this is not one I'll soon forget.
Was this review helpful?
I loved everything about this book. I stayed up WAY too late reading it, trying to figure out the mystery. Best news: I was totally wrong in my guesses. This book definitely had me guessing in the best possible way. Highly recommend for fans of thrillers, murder mysteries, and historical YA.
Was this review helpful?
Filled with themes of loyalty, acceptance, and found family, with a fun mystery at it's center and a 1920s setting, THE BOY IN THE RED DRESS is a must read!
I loved how diverse this cast is, and while Lambert doesn't shy away from the struggles of being queer and/or marginalized in this era, the love and automatic acceptance the characters feel for one another is wonderful and touching. LOVE LOVE LOVED seeing that on the page!
Millie makes for a compelling and intensely relatable protag--she's tough, stubborn, and incredibly determined, but all of those stem from her fierce desire to protect her friends and family. I loved her and would follow her through ten more books!
Lambert weaves the 1920s setting in effortlessly, showcasing all the elements unique to that time period without taking away from the main storyline. The book is tightly-plotted and the mystery incredibly satisfying.
I'm so lucky to be able to read an early copy of this incredible book, and cannot recommend it enough!!!
Was this review helpful?
This was OK. It was billed as Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries crossed with A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue. I haven't read the second, but I love the first, and I think this suffers a little in the comparison. Phryne Fisher (at least in the TV show...I haven't read the books) is a much more captivating main character than Millie is. Phryne is stylish and observant and intelligent and capable. Millie is a teenage girl who makes a lot of mistakes that put her and those around her in danger. The story description drew me in, but I just didn't connect with the story much. It wasn't bad, and it was a fine way to pass the time, but the characters weren't especially memorable. I kind of almost wish that instead of Millie being the main character and investigating the murder it had been Marion (the titular "boy in the red dress", a drag performer who is suspected of committing the murder) who was the main character investigating the murder. I was much more interested in him and his story than Millie's.

Maybe I would have enjoyed this a little more if I hadn't had such high expectations based on the comparison to Miss Fisher's.
Was this review helpful?