National Book Award winner Pete Hautman delivers a fast-paced mystery set in the torrid, unforgiving Southwestern desert, where the stakes are sky high and all bets are off.
Peeky Kane is a prop player at an Arizona casino owned by the Santa Cruz tribe. Her job is to play poker. She makes a handsome living off the suckers who populate the card room. Life is sweet.
But something's not right at Casino Santa Cruz. When Peeky inadvertently finds herself in a fixed game and comes away a couple thousand dollars richer, she finds herself drawn unwittingly toward the dark side of professional poker. Peeky has always thought of herself as a straight shooter, but now things aren't so clear. And they're about to get a lot murkier.
When a band of clown-masked robbers makes off with millions of the casino's dollars and leaves behind four corpses, Peeky recognizes one of the robbers as a casino employee, and fears that one of her closest loved ones might also be involved. That same day, Peeky's son-in-law turns up to tell her that Jaymie, her beloved daughter, has been stealing money from Peeky for years to feed a crack habit.
Numb from these revelations, Peeky is compelled to action by an unlikely source when the most powerful member of the Santa Cruz tribe calls upon her to help him save his troubled casino. Peeky must draw on her years of reading poker faces and playing the odds to save the casino, her daughter, and herself.
Hautman's Godless (2005) won a National Book Award for Young People's Fiction, but his impressive, sharply written new crime thriller is definitely for adults--especially those who would rather play poker than do anything else. Peeky Kane, an attractive woman in her 40s, is a prop--hired to keep shorthanded poker games going at a casino owned by a Native American tribe near Tucson, Ariz. She gets paid $110 per eight-hour-shift plus health insurance, keeps any money she wins at the tables (and must make up any losses out of her own pocket). Because she's shrewd and talented, Peeky has managed to put together a small nest egg, some of which goes to her troubled 21-year-old daughter, Jaymie. Peeky's lover, Buddy Balcomb, is also a poker addict, whose own winning streak may be over. Peeky's life takes a few sharp turns after some crooked dealers find a new way to steal money and make her an unwilling accomplice. As this short but action-packed novel shows, Hautman is the kind of cool, expert player who keeps the cards coming. (Apr.)
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Simon & Schuster
March 27, 2006
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