A young woman’s brutal education in the Las Vegas syndicate includes learning how to play, and betray, her ice-queen boss.
From her cool opening line, “I want the legs,” the first-person, unnamed narrator of this noir novella is all appetite. She is unapologetic about her hunger for everything: riches, men, adventure, control. A “little cupcake” with a steel-trap mind for the games of the Las Vegas underworld, the protagonist is working as a bookkeeper in a dive club when she is discovered and trained by the legendary Gloria Denton, the “queenpin” of the title. Before long, she’s placing bets for mob bosses in order to rig racetrack odds, picking up the winnings and delivering dirty cash and other stolen loot. Although Denton dresses her like a lady, our protagonist must mingle with the riffraff. So when she meets gambler Vic Riordan, she recognizes him for “a loser, straight up. A chalk jumper. A sucker bettor.” But she falls for him anyway, and when he tells her that he’s $30,000 away from getting killed, she agrees to a scam that will help him pay off his debts. But the heist, which involves Vic beating her face to a pulp as cover, is only the beginning of her troubles. Gloria sees right through the scam, and a rising crime lord, Amos Mackey, wants not only his money, but revenge. The honeymoon is over, and as blood begins to flow, the tough girl-in-training learns the real lessons of how to get what she wants and what it will cost in terms of love, friendship and a clean conscience. Acts of stunning brutality, all retold in the narrator’s hipster voice, reveal the ugliness behind the glitz, as a little girl grows up.
Abbott (The Song is You, 2007, etc.) produces another stunning hardboiled heroine.