Vegas in the late fifties, the setting for this novel, was a different place. Mega corporations weren’t involved back then and it certainly wasn’t a place for families. Instead, Vegas was a city run by the “syndicate” with all that implies and the occasional independent. The occasional independent like, Joe Martin, owner of the “Rainbow’s End Hotel and Casino” who doesn’t bow down to anyone, including the syndicate, even though he does run his business by syndicate rules.
Now somebody, or a group of people, has decided they want him shut down. It could be the syndicate or it could be others. Who it is doesn’t really matter because for Joe and his staff they are under siege. To shut him down, a number of things have been put into play with some very obvious and others much more subtle. The most obvious one was when Bello made his first appearance and picked up a pair of dice. Bello is a professional gambler and somebody who, if he rolls the dice right and really gets going, could bankrupt the casino. His plan is to win 10 million dollars and if he does it, the casino is finished and Joe Martin will be making his own long walk out in the desert. The next 74 hours will be critical, but, Bello isn’t the only one playing a game.
Through the main plot line and several secondary story lines, prolific author Steve Fisher weaves a tale of Vegas from fifty years ago. A tale that is stiff, flat and dated while also filled with numerous lectures on various aspects of Vegas and gambling. Those lectures, instead of raising the suspense level, bring the story to a dead stop.
A story that already has little action to it and instead relies on the suspense angle as well as character development to entice readers. Unfortunately, both fail to work for readers with experice in mysteries or noir. Stereotypes abound in this book with every character a caricature of what one expects in a genuine character. Then there is the issue of the extensive dialogue that doesn’t ring true at least for current time ears with it coming across as unnaturally stiff and formal while saying very little. Characters in this novel talk around issues and never really say with clarity what they mean. Then there is the fact that the entire novel and therefore nearly all the various outcomes are utterly predictable with no twists much like the stereotypical cover art.
This flat read was the July section for the Hard Case Crime Book Club. Unlike many of their releases, this read is painfully dated, flat, completely predictable and thoroughly disappointing for readers with a background in the genre. What may have read well fifty years ago doesn’t work at all now.
No House Limit
Hard Case Crime
Review copy came courtesy of my paid membership in the Hard Case Crime Book Club
Kevin R. Tipple Â© 2008
Honorable Mention Winner in Mysterical-E’ s Skeletons in the Closet –”Burning Questions”