House of Cards

Conall Ryan, Author, Elisabeth Sifton, Editor Alfred A. Knopf $18.95 (305p) ISBN 978-0-394-57214-7
What might have been a Zen and the Art of Poker Playing turns into a bumbling fable as professional gambler Martin Oakes helps problem kids around Boston cope with life by teaching them the finer points of poker. Oakes is supposed to be a wise counselor, full of tough love, but he could be mistaken for a condescending, sanctimonious guru-jerk (``All of you have been cheated,'' he drones at his students). His wife, Jennifer, is a nonentity, and the story has the earnest feel of a made-for-TV movie. Each of the middle seven chapters profiles one of his card pupils--a static plotting device that makes this more of a school yearbook than a novel. The climax, which seems to mirror an adolescent fixation, involves Oakes's long-sought match with poker legend ``Smooth Jake'' Warner, who lives in a 33-room mansion and loves Beethoven. Ryan, whose Black Gravity was an Edgar Award nominee, has written an unlikely melodrama that is mainly for poker fans. BOMC alternate; excerpted in Playboy. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/30/1989
Release date: 05/01/1989
Paperback - 298 pages - 978-1-902881-61-4
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