cover image Game of Thirty CL

Game of Thirty CL

William Kotzwinkle, Joe Servello. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $21.95 (262pp) ISBN 978-0-395-53270-6

The Game of Thirty is an ancient Egyptian board game in which the movement of pieces, according to the casting of bone dice, foreshadows events in the lives of the players. In Kotzwinkle's ( E.T. ; Doctor Rat ) noir novel for the 1990s, Manhattan is the ersatz playing board, and antiquities dealer Tommy Rennseler is a player whose piece was moved to the square of Rebirth (``your piece dies and has to start all over again'') on the night he was injected with cobra venom and disemboweled. High-tech detective Jimmy McShane is hired by Rennseler's daughter Temple to find her father's murderer. Aided by his office mate, Ann Henderson, a chiropractor with a New Age outlook and a talent for Sherlockian deduction, McShane moves around the city/board trying to discover who his opponent is. More murders and a suspect's involvement in child prostitution seem to sidetrack the plot, but in the end, all pieces, players and moves prove necessary to Kotzwinkle's resolution. McShane, Henderson and the supporting cast are fully three-dimensional and memorably idiosyncratic. In this game of 30, the reader is the winner, no contest. (June)