BLUFF by Jane Stanton Hitchcock


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An aging debutante and card shark commits the perfect revenge crime in Hitchcock’s (Mortal Friends, 2009, etc.) social noir.

When “Mad” Maud Warner walks into the Four Seasons and shoots Sun Sunderland, “the Pope of Finance,” then drops the gun and walks out again undetected, the upper-class grapevines in New York and Washington begin working overtime. It’s generally accepted that she was probably aiming at Sunderland’s lunch companion, Burt Sklar, a shady financial planner Maud blames for the fleecing of her mother and the death of her brother. It’s also generally admired that Maud has taken advantage of her relative social obscurity as a financially disgraced older woman to evade arrest, especially when the victim is revealed to be a bigamist. For her part, Maud takes shelter in the dingy world of underground poker, where she has become a consummate player. There’s a metaphor here of course; as an expert poker player, Maud knows how to plan and how to bluff, and soon the shooting is revealed to be part of a much larger plot to expose Sklar and punish both men for many egregious personal sins. The novel hums along with a chatty, sometimes hyperbolic tone; some chapters are written in Maud's first-person and others in third-person as the details of the crime and depth of the conspiracy are slowly exposed. Hitchcock pokes fun at the gossipy upper class, at the verbal tics of crass hangers-on, at the street-smart capability of former strippers and former advertising executives alike. The biggest takeaway: He who underestimates women of a certain age certainly does so at his own peril.

Frothy fun with a backbone of feminist steel; as quick-moving and intricate as any heist movie.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-4642-1067-9
Page count: 258pp
Publisher: Poisoned Pen
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2018


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