Kill Game: A Cold Poker Gang Mystery - Dean Wesley Smith
The blurbs for Dean Wesley Smith’s Kill Game: A Cold Poker Gang Mystery include one that describes it as an “exhilarating political poker thriller.” If you know who Harriett Klausner was you’re probably laughing at her grandiose description of yet another book she'd never read (she wrote dozens of book reviews a day). If you’ve read this particular book, well, you realize that not one word of her four is actually true.
Meet the Cold Poker Gang. Or perhaps not: supposedly a group of ex-Vegas cops who solve homicide cases while playing a weekly poker game, in reality only three appear in Kill Game (aren’t poker games usually among six or more players?). Two have strong connections to the cold case they’ve chosen to work on this time, however. Former Reno cop Julia Rogers is the widow of the man killed in Sin City twenty-two years ago; Stan Rocha was now-retired cop Bayard Lott’s first-ever homicide case. His murder remains unsolved all these years later.
Rogers, Lott, and Lott’s former partner Andor Williams decide to start over. Sure, why not? And, of course, they solve the case – but not before a number of surprises. The differences from Harriett’s description, though, are that 1) no one ever plays poker; 2) politics is only tangentially involved; 3) the characters are never in danger, so you can’t call it a “thriller”; and 4) Kill Game is in no way exhilarating.
|It’s not just not exhilarating, Kill Game is downright irritating. It’s irritating because Smith’s plot is dirt-stupid. The first clue that it’s stupid is that the victim’s widow and the detective who investigated the case have never met. Is Smith kidding? Even if Rogers wasn’t a suspect, at the very least she should have been called upon to identify the body. She apparently wasn’t even interviewed!
More investigatory malfeasance: the detectives (such as they are) never looked for the guy’s vehicle, never ran his fingerprints, never noticed some pretty obvious clues about the victim’s body. If you ask me, Grissom and his team are spinning in their television grave at that sort of incompetence!
Other irritants: Lott and Rogers develop the hots for each other, and the frequent descriptions of their yearning reads like something from a 13-year-old’s diary. Lott’s first name is used only once (the first time he’s mentioned), Andor’s last name appears only twice. The frequent references to certain restaurants suggest that Smith sold product placement to Wendy’s, KFC and Vegas joint the Café Bellagio (if such as place exists). Finally, the “twist” at the end is so predictable it’s almost anticlimactic.
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