Saturday, January 7, 2012


by Robin Spano
ECW Press

Robin Spano's second Clare Vengel Undercover novel takes the intrepid undercover cop from Niagara Falls to Vancouver on a poker tour where the highest stake is murder!

Straight from a successful undercover assignment which netted the police the killer in some political murders at the University of Toronto campus, Vengel has been seconded to the RCMP. She's filling in for an undercover cop whose cover was blown, and he's now dead. Vengel knows poker but it's her cover as the spoiled Tiffany, whose trust fund is her bank role that gets her into the action at the table and on the trail of the Poker Choker.

Her job's on the line though as she pits her smarts up against a quirky array of players. There's Mickey, the long-time pro who takes her under his wing; Joe, consistently in the money and always on the look-out for an easy conquest; Elizabeth is his girlfriend and she hates Tiffany from the get-go; Fiona, the TV commentator who's more involved than she should be; George the crime writer; Noah, the new guy on the tour; Nate, the one who's hiding something...but then again, aren't they all?

The plot works its way through all their stories, following the trail of a cheating scam, as one by one, the players are killed. Vengel is a bit out of her depth. She doesn't know who to trust. Her handler saves her butt on several occasions, keeping her in the game when the RCMP want to pull her out. Because she could lose her job...and, she could lose her life.

Robin Spano obviously is a player. And I'm not. She sits the reader at the table and plays out each hand and even though the terms mean zilch to me, I'm there routing Tiffany/Clare on. Spano has also captured the buzz and excitement that surrounds the poker tour, where money is just a commodity and there's a lot of hard living going on, too. She's got the dialogue down pat and the tension builds throughout the book until it's Tiffany vs killer.

Death Plays Poker will appeal to anyone who's ever sat through a poker game...and those of us who love sitting through a fast-moving crime novel.

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