Review: “The Frame-Up:” Geekiest Mystery Ever?

Reading Time: 4 minutes
The Frame Up geeky mystery
Image copyright 47North.

There may be other geeky comic mystery stories out there, but they won’t be any geekier than The Frame-Up by MG Molin, which was released on December 1st.

The main character of The Frame-Up, MG Martin, is living the geek comic dream.

MG is a creator on her favorite superhero book at a comic company. She lives with her best friend, a gamer who understands her perfectly, and designs acclaimed geeky costumes for her other best friend.

But all isn’t rosy underneath. MG’s contributions at work are under-valued because she’s a woman and her sense of self is still damaged from growing up, as her family, friends, and her first serious boyfriend never understood her geeky passions. The passage below will resonate with many geeks who’ve felt those around them don’t understand their passions:

Tom worked for my dad while I was in law school. My first real love, forever trying to change me. The night he asked me to marry him—two kids in love who had no ideas what they wanted in the world—he told me that if I said yes, “I wouldn’t have to write those comics anymore—not work at all when we had kids.” It was my moment of reckoning, looking at a future just like my parents.’ No fun, no color, no passion, no room to be crazy into geek fandoms. Tied down. Boring. Typical. I didn’t want to be typical. I wanted to be a superhero. I told him no thank you, dropped out of school, colored my hair the next day, and never looked back, even after my parents told me they wouldn’t give me another dime if I didn’t finish law school.

MG’s life is about to level up in The Frame-Up, putting anything resembling boring or typical in the rear-view mirror.

MG’s favorite superhero, the Golden Arrow, seems to have come to life to fight a new wave of drug crimes, opening up an old mystery connected to the late owner of the comic book company. This superhero could secretly be one of MG’s co-workers or best friends. Thus, she joins forces with Los Angeles Detective Matteo Kildaire, who values her comic book knowledge, though she was less than impressed with him at their first meeting:

“MG! Mocha chai latte!” Saved by the barista. I reach out, snag the cup sans to-go collar-ouch—and keep right on motoring and out of the coffe shop. I hear “Herbal tea” called out behind me, and I snort. Not an Americano guy after all. Herbal tea? Hipster much? Or maybe it’s for his sick girlfriend. He seems the type.

The Frame-Up is geek heaven to read, with a deep dive into numerous aspects of fandom, especially superheroes and cosplay. Its’ charm is due to how much the writer clearly loves her geekdoms. Perhaps the sweetest scene in the book is where Matteo, working undercover with MG to find the person playing superhero, is introduced to Star Wars at a party for her co-workers:

I haven’t watched Star Wars without a liberal dose of cynicism since I was ten years old. But something funny begins to happen when we start A New Hope. The words scrawl across the screen and Matteo reads them out loud, and a shiver runs down my spine. This whole universe is about to be opened up to him, and I’m the one who gets to introduce him to the marvels of the Millennium Falcon. And R2-D2. And I’m seriously hoping this is the old cut with the non-remastered Jabba scene so that Matteo can experience the real Jabba and Leia scene. I realize I’m giddy. It feels magical. Like the first time I saw them myself and got caught up in the wonder of it all, instead of wondering where the stormtroopers got so much PVC to make their armor in space.

Their budding romance is secondary, however, to solving the two mysteries: who’s the new superhero and who is the mastermind behind the rise in drug crimes?

Solve the second problem and the first one takes care of itself. This leads MG to a little breaking and entering, lying to Matteo to protect her friends, and lying to her friends to help Matteo. In the process, MG is going to have to discover what she truly wants out of her career and her life.

Despite the awesome immersion into geek culture, there were times when I grew impatient with MG’s inability to make a decision and her dithering over keeping secrets. This may be an essential element of MG’s growth but since the appeal of the story largely rests on MG’s voice and perspective, the story lost some of its’ charm for me here and there.

My reaction might be due to being two decades older than MG and perhaps forgetting some of the uncertainties of my twenties. MG’s not fully realized but she’s getting there, though her snarky voice may not be to everyone’s taste.

But, in the end, I loved how unapologetically and unashamedly this book presents geekdom in all its glorious forms. I especially smiled over the final action sequence, set at a fictional version of Comic Con International in San Diego.

MG, Matteo, and all the heroes, villains, and even side characters come together in a chase through, well, all fandoms. This book has the subtitle of The Golden Arrow Mysteries, and there are lingering plot questions at the end, including the resolution fo the romance, so hopefully, this is the start of an excellent long-running series.

Disclaimer: GeekMom received a review copy of this book.

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