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Three small-time Las Vegas operators forge a bold scheme to extort millions from a casino chief.

Weary Emmett Druperman, CEO of the Galaxy Hotel and Casino, has problems enough with a threatened strike and the unreasonable demands of temperamental Sinatra clone Tony Francisco. An anonymous demand for $10 million accompanied by an ominous videotape triggers an emergency call to his VP of Security Steve Forrester and a series of flashbacks to the principal players. Petty swindler Dan Shiller works various scams, targeting the weakest croupier and sneaking in late roulette bets. Egghead Jurgen Voss has a more sophisticated racket, card counting—not technically illegal but not permitted by casinos either. When Forrester confronts him at a Galaxy blackjack table, Forrester is backed up by pretty dealer Lucy Baker, and romance blossoms for the lonesome duo. Shiller and Voss are recruited into the extortion scheme by pork-bellied Buster Malloy, a veteran security guard at the Galaxy. Until recently, Malloy had a comfortable domestic relationship with aging blond hooker Helga Johanssen, who liked a little roughhousing with her sex. When he accidentally killed her, he succeeded in disposing of the body without anyone noticing, and now he’s emboldened to try for the big score. The first tape he sends Druperman shows hotel guest Barney Leopold being poisoned in the coffeeshop. Game on.

A character-driven debut caper with great characters and authentic atmosphere—but little tension.

Pub Date: Nov. 19th, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-32199-6
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2004