A chance encounter with a cop in a coffee shop shifts the focus of MG Martin’s life from writing comics to living out comics-inspired—but deadly serious—adventures. Meghan Scott Molin’s debut mystery novel, “The Frame-Up,” treats fans of geeky pop culture to a fast-paced story filled to bursting with romantic tension, allusions obvious and obscure, and a squad of badass drag queens.
Matteo, the cop who draws MG into his case after she notes that a crime scene photo seems to recreate a climactic moment from a 30-year-old comic book, is a significant distraction to MG. She’s shocked to find herself drawn to a man who has no knowledge of the worlds—real and imagined—that she inhabits. Molin has something of a heavy hand when it comes to sexual tension, and MG’s voice loses much of its charm when she’s addled by love or lust. Still, these characters are likeable and their unexpected attraction sets up a variety of key moments, some serious and others humorous.
Molin also nearly overdoes it with her geek in-jokes. The pop culture isn’t sprinkled in so much as delivered as a drenching downpour. Even for someone primed to delight in such things — as your reviewer certainly is — the efforts to establish geek cred often seem forced into moments where they don’t add anything.
Even so, “The Frame-Up” is largely successful. Molin keeps the reader guessing as to the identity of the villain, she executes a nifty chase scene set at San Diego Comic Con, and she introduces a cast of characters who will likely have staying power with readers who like their heroes quirky and unpredictable. And she leaves plenty of threads unresolved for the forthcoming sequel. The next entry in Molin’s series is set to arrive on shelves in about six months. When it does, I’ll be happy to check in with MG and her friends and foes.