Cold Deck

H. Lee Barnes, Author
H. Lee Barnes. Univ. of Nevada, $26.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-87417-884-5
Reviewed on: 02/25/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
Set in Las Vegas, this low-key crime novel from Barnes (The Lucky) is about a basically decent man who tries to grab the brass ring before it's too late. Veteran blackjack dealer Jude Helms has survived the disastrous MGM fire in 1980, a firing in 1984, a doomed marriage, a firing disguised as a layoff at the Monaco casino, and a car accident. After yet another job loss, Helms allows himself to get sucked into a lucrative but illegal gambling scheme. Through his teenage daughter, Beth, Helms meets Audra Moser, the attractive mother of one of Beth's school friends. Audra, who may have served prison time, introduces Helms to Ben Goldman, who tests his dealer skills and begins grooming him for a scam. As Helms gets in deeper, he struggles to find a way to extricate himself, but finds his path blocked by his own guilt and vulnerability. Barnes, who obviously knows the ins and outs of casino gambling routines, puts them to good use as Helms makes a last desperate attempt to break free. (Mar.)