Author: Michael Shou-Yung Shum
Published by: Forest Avenue Press
Publication date: 10 October 2017
Genre: General Fiction, Suspense
Mareli's rating: 3.5 stars
Recommend to: If you have a gambling problem - stay clear. This book reveals the 'magic' of a casino and the luck of the card.
Description: Queen of Spades revamps the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, transplanted to a mysterious Seattle-area casino populated by a pit boss with six months to live, a dealer obsessing over the mysterious methods of an elderly customer known as the Countess, and a recovering gambler who finds herself trapped in a cultish twelve-step program. With a breathtaking climax that rivals the best Hong Kong gambling movies, Michael Shou-Yung Shum’s debut novel delivers the thrilling highs and lows that come when we cede control of our futures to the roll of the dice and the turn of a card. Forest Avenue Press
"We can never know anything for sure", the Countess replied. "for what we speak of is gambling"
What an intriguing tale involving gambling, casinos, card dealing, taking high stake chances and card games I never even heard of......I'm still not much the wiser, but I was mesmerized by the magical and oh so addictive turn of the cards.
Hard to believe that this was Michael Shou-Yung Shum's debut novel. But if you take a look at his life story (so far), this man sure has some delightful tales to tell:
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Michael Shou-Yung Shum eventually found himself dealing poker in a dead-end casino in Lake Stevens, Washington. Two doctorates bookend this strange turn of events: the first in Psychology from Northwestern, and the second in English from University of Tennessee. Along the way, Michael spent a dozen years in Chicago, touring the country as a rave DJ. (Forest Avenue Press)
It's thus safe to assume that many aspects in this novel was based on the author's vast knowledge of gambling and all its contingencies. It also revamps the classic Pushkin fable of the same name. I haven't read any of the Pushkin's stories myself, but Google has and according to my trusted friend, the essential premise does stay the same: An obsessed gambler; a mysterious but ridiculously old Countess; and a fatal game of faro.
The book is also a much longer version than the original short story by Pushkin, dealing with more characters and a far more intriguing plot. Such wonderful characters we met in and around the Royal Casino. Some had a sad, lost and hopeless feel around them. The only thing that gave meaning to their lives were the thrill of winning and the luck of the draw. Inside the casino, or on the racetracks, or standing in line to buy a lotto ticket - turned these characters into winners and royalty. The risk of losing hardly ever occurs, until the reality of loss hits them.
I know next to nothing about cards and casinos, but I was definitely swept up in the magic of that ultimate faro game. (Trivia: I honestly never would have thought that dealers like gambling as well.)
Queen of Spades is one of those food for thought books. A quick,enjoyable read that lingers for a couple of days. I will recommend this one to just about everybody. Unless you have a gambling problem. It might be better to stay clear.
Thanks again to the lovely Laura Stanfill for providing me with an Advance Reading Copy of this novel. Much appreciated!