In Williams’ debut thriller, a man plots to evade taxes by cheating a casino—a scheme that goes horribly wrong when someone ends up dead.
Millionaire businessman Burt Donaldson doesn’t like that the U.S. government takes nearly 40 percent of his yearly earnings, so he hatches a plot to trim the taxes he owes. He plans to fix a game of roulette at his Vegas casino: he’ll let a gambler win millions but afterward have the bulk of the winnings returned to himself. A few of Burt’s execs pick Aussie employee Jason Chard to play the lucky winner, as his memorization is solid—Burt makes sure to test his skills—and he and wife Debbie could duck away to their home country with their portion of the cash; Burt would then pick up his portion from Jason. The ruse works, but it seems that, weeks later in Australia, Jason is reluctant to part with any of the score. Burt travels to Australia to track down Jason but gets more than he bargained for—a murder rap to beat. Williams’ novel often reads like a soap opera, a thoroughly enjoyable one, with murder, mystery, sexual tension, and a double cross or two. Burt opens the story as the protagonist, but there’s also sufficient coverage of Jason while the roulette scheme is underway and of John Fix, vice president of administration, whose romance with assistant lawyer Jane Coe is tested when an envious John questions her frequent business meetings with Burt. For details, Williams is meticulous, which typically works in the novel’s favor, especially with regard to the laborious process of choosing the gambler: John, marketing VP Peter Rush, and attorney Bill Smythe take their time for the selection, which helps build suspense and exposes each man’s doubts about their boss’s plans. All of these plot points likewise lead to a big payoff at the end, and the novel caps off with a nice, effective twist. The excessive particulars, however, can sometimes be a bit much. For example, as Burt explains the scam to Jason at dinner, Jason eyes his meal and allows the narrative to turn into a superfluous lesson on how to eat French onion soup. Eventually, though, once Burt reaches Australia, the plot becomes wittily convoluted in a mystery that zigzags with glee.
A subdued but positively absorbing murder mystery.