cover image Dead Man's Hand: Crime Fiction at the Poker Table

Dead Man's Hand: Crime Fiction at the Poker Table

, . . Harcourt/Penzler, $25 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101277-0

Despite some excellent individual efforts from a Who's Who of crime writers, this uneven anthology of poker-related stories never truly capitalizes on the game's innate drama. Any mystery lover will enjoy Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks story, “The Eastvale Ladies' Poker Circle,” though poker is merely a backdrop in this and too many of the stories. Michael Connelly fans will appreciate Harry Bosch bluffing out a murder suspect in “One-Dollar Jackpot,” while a rigged poker game on a cruise ship has dire consequences in Alexander McCall Smith's haunting “In the Eyes of Children.” Poker does occupy center stage in Jeffery Deaver's “Bump,” where a former TV star tries to increase his popularity by appearing in a made-for-TV poker tournament, but the poker details are suspect. Professional poker player Howard Lederer's introduction reminds the reader of the enormous effect poker has had on American culture, but this anthology never really mines the game's explosive popularity. (Nov.)