Something new for switch-hitting Hautman, who shuttles between comic crime (Doohickey, 2002, etc.) and YA fables (Godless, 2004): a sweetly twisted tale of mayhem at a tribal casino.
Peeky Kane is a prop at Tucson’s Casino Santa Cruz, a place she describes as “Las Vegas meets Dysfunctional Family meets the Great Spirit.” In return for strategically swelling the ranks of poker players at the Santa Cruz, which is owned by a homeless tribe resurrected in 1974, she earns $416 a week and everything she can legally win, though she’s got to cover her own losses. Peeky doesn’t generally lose much because she’s a born observer, good at noticing little details most people would miss. That’s why, the night the Santa Cruz is knocked over by a clutch of clowns who kill five people and make off with over a million dollars, she instantly recognizes one of the clowns as a casino employee and another as her boyfriend. Unfortunately, this time Peeky isn’t the only sharp eye on the scene, or the only one to link herself to the robbers. Worse, she’s got other problems that send her life spiraling out of control. In short order, her daughter’s unmasked as a crack addict whose rehab will cost $26,000; the cash Peeky would normally use to bankroll her is stolen by somebody who also takes the handgun her late husband gave her; and her hopes of replenishing her nest egg anytime soon go south when she’s fired. So far, so fine—until Hector Vega, the tribal leader who put the Santa Cruz back on the map a generation ago, takes her under his wing, offers her a new job as his own personal prop and sends her into an eminently predictable gang of high-rolling thieves, swindlers and politicians.
Hautman is never without his pleasures. This time they mostly come in the first 100 pages, before he deals the flop.