Poker Faces and Killer High Heels: Just Another Day in Sin City

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Sometimes, though, it makes total sense.

Take, for instance, Las Vegas-native Lucky O’Toole’s equal parts charmed and cursed life. [If you haven’t been a party to her various Sin City exploits yet, then by all means dash on over to my earlier reviews, here, and go from the bottom post up, before reading any further.] Recently promoted to Vice President of Customer Relations--a euphemism for Problem Fixer Extraordinaire, which entails at least as many headaches as it sounds like--at the esteemed Babylon hotel, Lucky still has no “life” to speak of (unless your idea of such means “all work”, in which case she has it in spades). She races around the hotel (often on a pair of highly-unsuitable stiletto heels) putting out fires at all hours of the night and day--placating the occasional less-than-happy guests, unruffling disgruntled employee feathers, and juggling the needs of the various contractors, vendors, and special guests at the myriad conventions hosted by the Babylon--all while signing a forest’s worth of paperwork each day and keeping tabs on security, housekeeping, maintenance, the casinos, and the restaurants.

And, sure, her parents--after thirty-plus years of living apart--may have finally gotten hitched, with her former-madam mom moving into the Babylon to live with her (only-recently-revealed) hotel-owning dad, but mom Mona’s been driving Lucky as crazy as ever with her kooky ideas and outrageous, innuendo-laden comments, and her father is still “The Big Boss” to everyone. (Oh, and the fact that her parents are about to be new parents again? Just adds to the normal level of crazy.)

Everything would be okay, though, if only her own love life wasn’t still on the lam. (Hard to imagine, but watching her honey choose a globe-trotting career entertaining people with his music over being with her sorta put the big kibosh on the whole romance thing.) And sure, there’s a handsome (if occasionally testy and frequently demanding) French chef in the wings, but he has plenty of baggage of his own, and Lucky’s pretty sure she’s had her share of that kind of baggage.      

So, yeah, Lucky’s seen and done it all before... or so she thinks, until an encounter in the wee hours of the morning makes her rethink everything--even contemplating the idea that maybe she can’t fix every problem--in Deborah Coonts’ Lucky Bastard.

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When her friend (slash former co-worker and wannabe lover) Paxton Dane summons her down to the Babylon’s on-site luxury car dealership at three in the morning, Lucky can’t imagine what’s up, but the urgency in Dane’s voice convinces her she’d better get down there, pronto. What--and who--he wants to show her, though, is beyond the need for any hurry. Under the lone spotlight, a new Ferrari makes slow revolutions on a dais... but instead of a spiffy hood ornament, this one sports a drop-dead gorgeous woman in a tiny party dress, lying spread-eagled across the hood. This isn’t part of some heavy metal video shoot or an interrupted lovers’ tryst, either, not since this unfortunate woman has the spiked end of a limited edition Jimmy Choo buried in her neck.

Making awful matters worse, Dane finally admits--after some intense grilling by a very annoyed Lucky--not only to knowing the dead woman, but to holding something of a grudge against her... a fact which Lucky’s favorite Metro P.D. contact, Detective Romeo, finds very interesting, although Dane insists that he didn’t hurt her. (Hey, if you’ve got a likely suspect in front of you, who are you gonna believe?)

Of course, it wouldn’t be Vegas if that were the only thing on Lucky’s plate. It’s also time for the final round of the annual Smack-Down Poker tournament--a mega-popular tourney drawing players, fans, groupies, and major media attention from around the world--which just so happens to be taking place at the Babylon.

Throw in the mysterious on-site murder of a (much-reviled) casino employee, the shocking death of a (much-loved) tourney participant, and a surprise attack on Lucky herself (during some of her not-entirely-sanctioned-but-who-cares investigating), and Lucky and company decide it’s time to take matters into their own hands and find a way to rid the Babylon of its latest pest-with-deadly-intent.

She can only hope that Dane is actually telling the truth about not being behind everything... and that she is up to the task of proving the same thing to the police.

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Much like a trip to Vegas--where everything that happens stays (according to their motto)--you can always count on Lucky-and-company’s escapades to provide some fun, flashy, escapist entertainment, which Lucky Bastard does. That’s only part of what continues to lure me in, though; just as fascinating to me are the glimpses of Sin City’s seedy underbelly--the very unglamorous places, where grit and cast-off things collect--and the behind-the-scenes peeks into how such a wildly engineered-for-outrageous-extravagance oasis of glitz and luxury functions day after day (something which these books have in abundance).

In the mood for a clever mystery served up with a splash of glam, a soupçon of witty repartee, and a little desert grime? Pick up Lucky Bastard; it’s a sure bet.

[Lucky Bastard will be released May 15, 2013.]  


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