cover image Play the Fool

Play the Fool

Lina Chern. Bantam, $17 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-50066-8

Katie True, the 29-year-old narrator of Chern’s enjoyable debut, is stuck in a dead-end job at a “Russian knickknack place” in a mall outside Chicago. Her only friend, Marley, works in a goth boutique across the way. Secure and self-sufficient, Marley is everything that Katie is not. With Marley’s encouragement, Katie, whose only skill is reading tarot cards, takes her first steps toward discovering her place in life, in defiance of her caring but judgmental family. Then a bleeding man stumbles into Katie’s shop and asks her to read his cards. A panicked Katie sneaks a glance at his phone while he’s distracted and spots a photo of Marley with a gunshot wound to the head. Katie’s quest to discover the truth about her friend’s death leads her afoul of organized criminals as well as a disturbingly attractive, by-the-books police detective. Mystery-first readers may find the plot a bit scant, but Katie is a heroine anyone will root for. This good-natured romp works best when it focuses on Katie’s efforts to negotiate the gentle art of adulthood. Agent: Joanna Mackenzie, Nelson Literary. (Mar.)