William Maynard, a former magician turned card shark, was run out of Chicago following a botched poker scheme. Following a nasty dust up, Bill befriends a dentist and finds himself with an invitation to a low stakes card game. It’s there that he meets Joyce, the sultry wife of tax lawyer Murray Rogers. Before long, Bill finds himself tangled up in the sheets with Joyce and the two hatch a plan to frame Murray for murder, eliminating him from the picture. Will their plan succeed or will Bill’s luck run out once again?
While the story progressed swiftly and the twists and turns refused to let up, it’s the banter between the characters as well as Bill’s narration that kept me from putting the book down. Granted, my knowledge isn’t the strongest when it comes to card games – I barely know how to play anything outside of Go Fish – I rarely felt intimidated when Block gave the play-by-play in describing Bill’s cheating methods It’s not like he held my hand or over explained things, Block kept the scenes moving smoothly and was careful not to get bogged down in the technical aspects of it all.
Now that I’ve got a few of these Hardcase Crime novels under my belt, I can easily say that this was the most sex-driven yet. While I’m sure there may be others on the horizon that will give Lucky At Cards a run for its money, this takes the cake for the time being. Hey, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, the sex scenes aren’t overly gratuitous by any means nor are they really all that lengthy, they’re just abundant I suppose.
While Bill’s not really that likeable – he’s a card shark who specializes in cheating others – you just can’t help but root for him to succeed. It’s bewildering to say the least. It’s not like Block does him any favors. Even if he shows the smallest glimmer of light escaping from Bill’s criminally hardened facade, he quickly covers him in another layer of scum. This is the great thing about the pulps of this era, the characters are deeply flawed so their decisions aren’t always the right ones, which makes the story wholly unpredictable.
Lucky at Cards is another exceptional release from the folks at Hardcase Crime who continue to strive to keep this genre alive and well.