Lynn: REGICIDE is the first ominous clue in Hanna Alkaf’s unusual mystery, Queen of the Tiles (S&S/Salaam, 2022). Trina Lowe was the reigning “Queen of the Tiles” when she suddenly keeled over the Scrabble Board and died just one year ago. Still struggling to recover from the trauma of that event, Trina’s best friend Najwa Bakri is making her first appearance at a tournament since that event. Najwa is determined to win the championship to honor Trina and figure out the mystery of her death. Was it a tragic accident or was it murder? As Najwa begins to work with her friends and fellow competitors, she is horrified to see cryptic messages appearing on Trina’s Instagram account. Each message includes a series of Scrabble tile letters as a clue. Who is sending the messages and can anyone be trusted?
Set in Kuala Lampur, Alkaf skillfully weaves Malaysian culture and the fascinating details of competitive Scrabble into the story. And, yes, there IS such a thing as competitive Scrabble. Each chapter begins with a word spelled out in Scrabble tiles, its definition and point value. Enough background is provided so that even Scrabble newbies won’t feel like they’ve drawn a terrible rack. The tension ratchets up as the competition and Najwa’s investigations move along. There is bagful of red herrings and Najwa, her friends and fellow competitors slowly begin to put together all the tiles to spell out the surprising answers.