cover image High Hand

High Hand

Gary Phillips. Kensington Publishing Corporation, $22 (320pp) ISBN 978-1-57566-616-7

Martha Chainey, athletic, gun-toting ex-showgirl and mob money courier, makes her hard-hitting debut in this tawdry heist thriller, in which everybody is a crook. Las Vegas casino-managers Frankie Degault and his sister Victoria entrust Chainey to drive from Nevada to a swank address in Mill Valley, Calif., to deliver $7 million in 100-dollar bills. Soon after she arrives, several masked thugs shoot everyone but her and steal the cash. Suspecting that Chainey double-crossed them, the Degaults give her 72 hours to find the thieves and recover the money. They assign Baker, a sadomasochistic South African (and one of the book's few white characters), to keep Chainey running for the money and her life instead of running away. The trail leads to an Indian reservation with a casino that wants to expand into Las Vegas. Various Indians, gamblers and the creeps who stole the $7 million menace Chainey. With help from Cuban mobster Ira ""Mooch"" Maltazar and reporter Rena Solomon, she manages to worm out the surprising truth behind the theft, but not before Baker gets her at his mercy, tied up upside-down and bare-bottomed. Phillips, author of Zook and the Ivan Monk series, knows the history of black Las Vegas and serves up a fast-moving, uncomplicated plot. Many readers will be put off by this sordid tale, but no doubt plenty of others will look forward to further degradation for Chainey in the sequel. (Nov.)