cover image The Princess of Las Vegas

The Princess of Las Vegas

Chris Bohjalian. Doubleday, $29 (400p) ISBN 978-0-385-54758-1

Bestseller Bohjalian (The Lioness) mismatches plot and tone in this unwieldy thriller about lowlifes chasing high stakes in Las Vegas. The action centers on estranged sisters Crissy and Betsy Dowling, who are dead ringers for one another and for Princess Diana—a circumstance that launches Crissy’s career as the star of a musical about the late Lady Di at the tatty, off-the-strip Buckingham Palace Casino. Despite Crissy’s troubles—including bulimia, romantic turmoil, and pill popping—she feels fairly sanguine about her situation until a co-owner of the casino dies under suspicious circumstances. Then Betsy moves to town with her slimy new cryptocurrency exec boyfriend, Frankie, and a precocious 12-year-old foster daughter. Things spiral quickly as Frankie’s associates fast-track a scheme to turn the Buckingham into an all-crypto casino/money-laundering operation that hinges on the clueless Betsy’s resemblance to her sister. Before long, the plan goes from madcap to murderous, and Bohjalian slips in some well-calibrated satire of cryptocurrency culture. He’s less sure-footed, however, when it comes to the novel’s tone, which is curiously buttoned-up for a subject so conducive to bold treatment. Despite a blazing, Tarantino-esque climax, Bohjalian’s fans are likely to be disappointed. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider. (Mar.)