Thursday, February 08, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Picasso Flop by Vince Van Patten

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The Picasso Flop by Vince Van Patten. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Picasso Flop by Vince Van Patten

The Picasso Flop by Vince Van Patten
A Texas Hold 'Em Mystery

Mysterious Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-89296-070-1 (0892960701)
ISBN-13: 978-0-89296-070-5 (9780892960705)
Publication Date: February 2007
List Price: $24.99

Synopsis (from the publisher): Jimmy Spain was known as one of the luckiest guys in professional poker--until he landed in prison. Then his wealthy cellmate made him a deal he couldn't refuse: mentor his only child in the high-stakes game of Texas Hold'em and he'll set Jimmy up in a condo with 10 grand a month as spending money and pay all his expenses on the poker tour. Done deal.

Suddenly, Jimmy's back on the circuit and in charge of a cocky kid named Kat--that's right, a girl! As the unlikely pair battle their way to the World Poker Tour Championship at the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas, it seems like nothing can stop them from cashing in. Then a fellow player is found dead with a three-card "Picasso Flop" in his shirt pocket, casting suspicion on the new Hold'em wiz kid, Kat. Now, amid building pressure to win the tournament, it falls to Jimmy to prove her innocence. Will the distraction cost him his big break? Or send him back to jail? Maybe worse?

Review: Vince Van Patten, host of the World Poker Tour (WPT), teams up with author Robert J. Randisi to pen the first Texas Hold 'Em mystery, The Picasso Flop, featuring poker player Jimmy Spain. Though Jimmy Spain is fictional, the book features a number of real-life characters including Van Patten's co-host on the tour, Mike Sexton.

Jimmy Spain, off the pro-poker circuit for 10 years due to a stint in prison for manslaughter, is persuaded by a former cellmate, Harold Landrigan, to take his estranged daughter, Kat, under his wing. Her passion in life is poker, specifically, Texas Hold 'Em, and Landrigan wants to see that she has a chance to succeed. Jimmy's incentive: a condo, $10K a month, and all expenses paid to Las Vegas for the Five Diamond World Poker Classic at the Bellagio. And there's a stipulation: Kat can't know that Jimmy is being paid by her father. Shortly after the tournament begins, a hot-shot internet poker player is found murdered, his neck broken. A day later his partner is thrown off a balcony into the hotel's pool. The only thing connecting the two murders is a set of cards found on their bodies: a jack, queen, and king, or in the vernacular of Texas Hold 'Em, a Picasso flop.

The Picasso Flop is a reasonably entertaining mystery that will likely appeal to anyone who plays Texas Hold 'Em or enjoys watching the players on television. There is a lot of insider information, and the book is peppered with poker phrases and slang. As might be expected in a book of this sort, there are fair number of characters to manage and the authors do a fine job of giving them individual traits, allowing the reader to readily distinguish between them. What might be over-the-top caricature in another setting seems comparatively mainstream here.

The plot is not as tightly constructed as it could be and is dependent upon a number of largely improbable, and at times highly coincidental, circumstances. And portraying the Las Vegas police and Bellagio hotel security as rather inept organizations certainly helps keep the murderer hidden in plain sight for as long as possible.

The Picasso Flop is subtitled a "Texas Hold 'Em" mystery, but will presumably return with most of the main characters as their personal storylines are left unresolved at the end of the book. The crimes presented here may be concluded, but what the future holds for Jimmy Spain and Kat Landrigan remains a mystery.

Special thanks to Hachette Book Group USA for providing an ARC of The Picasso Flop for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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