PETE HAUTMAN – The Prop.  Nominated for Best Private Eye Paperback Original of the Year, 2007.

Simon & Schuster, trade paperback, March 2006.

   Book description:

The Prop

National Book Award winner Pete Hautman delivers a fast-paced mystery set in the torrid, unforgiving Southwestern desert, where the stakes are sky high and all bets are off.

Peeky Kane is a prop player at an Arizona casino owned by the Santa Cruz tribe. Her job is to play poker. She makes a handsome living off the suckers who populate the card room. Life is sweet.

But something’s not right at Casino Santa Cruz. When Peeky inadvertently finds herself in a fixed game and comes away a couple thousand dollars richer, she finds herself drawn unwittingly toward the dark side of professional poker. Peeky has always thought of herself as a straight shooter, but now things aren’t so clear. And they’re about to get a lot murkier.

When a band of clown-masked robbers makes off with millions of the casino’s dollars and leaves behind four corpses, Peeky recognizes one of the robbers as a casino employee, and fears that one of her closest loved ones might also be involved. That same day, Peeky’s son-in-law turns up to tell her that Jaymie, her beloved daughter, has been stealing money from Peeky for years to feed a crack habit.

Numb from these revelations, Peeky is compelled to action by an unlikely source when the most powerful member of the Santa Cruz tribe calls upon her to help him save his troubled casino. Peeky must draw on her years of reading poker faces and playing the odds to save the casino, her daughter, and herself.

   Review excerpts:

Publishers Weekly: “Hautman’s Godless (2005) won a National Book Award for Young People’s Fiction, but his impressive, sharply written new crime thriller is definitely for adults — especially those who would rather play poker than do anything else. […] Peeky’s life takes a few sharp turns after some crooked dealers find a new way to steal money and make her an unwilling accomplice. As this short but action-packed novel shows, Hautman is the kind of cool, expert player who keeps the cards coming.”

Booklist: “A cop’s widow who was briefly on the force herself, Peeky is cruising into middle age when she notices a couple of dealers scamming jackpots. […] Signs point to an inside job, and Peeky finds herself both under suspicion and roped into investigating the crime — even as she must track down her troubled daughter with a potentially violent son-in-law. There’s a lot of muss and a little fuss, but Peeky maintains her wry, letting-it-all-hang-out vibe come hell or bad boyfriends. As an addition to the mystery game, she’s as welcome as pocket aces.”

   An earlier series of books by Pete Hautman featured Joe Crow, Sam O’Gara, Axel Speeter, and Tommy Fabian, a group of small-town gamblers in Minnesota. (In some books they have only very minor roles):

Drawing Dead. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, Oct 1993. Pocket, paperback, October 1997.

Short Money. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, May 1995. Pocket, paperback, July 1997.

The Mortal Nuts. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, June 1996. Pocket, paperback, September, 1997.

Ring Game. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, October 1997. Pocket, paperback, October 1998.

Mrs. Million. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, March 1999. Pocket, paperback, March 2000.

    Most, if not all, of the author’s other recent fictional work has been intended for the Young Adult market. For more information, this link will lead to his web page. This book appears to have been Peeky Kane�s first and only appearance, so far.