H. Lee Barnes (author); COLD DECK; University of Nevada Press (Fiction: Thriller) 26.95 ISBN: 9780874178845
Byline: Joe Taylor
For a guy who deals out luck in the high-stakes blackjack pits of Las Vegas casinos, most of Jude Helms's personal fortune is bad. Lately he has lost two jobs, the first after seventeen years at the Monaco, and the next after only four weeks at the New Laredo. He also totaled his prize Mustang, suffering a dislocated thumb and seven stitches in his brow, among other injuries. Just weeks ago he was arrested for dumping dog poop on a negligent neighbor's shoes. Jude doesn't like his life all that much, but he is stuck, and he has been spinning his wheels ever since the MGM casino fire of 1980, an ordeal in which he saw people die, and from which he barely escaped, and for which he was awarded only $2,000 in damages for burns to his ankle. Perhaps his New Age ex-wife is correct -- though Jude would never admit it -- that the universe is sending him a message.
While readers' sympathies begin to wear thin at Jude's litany of headaches, they might also begin to root for him. The man is a good blackjack dealer: He shows up, and he knows how to keep the cards flying. But more than that, his "consistent joy" is his two kids, and his consistent dream is to get away from the betting tables and launch a career as a masonry contractor. When he meets...