The Picasso Flop starts out with a pair of aces dealt from the top and the stakes keep getting higher. For someone like me who knows a poker is a stick you use in the fireplace the lingo can be a bit challenging at times but authors Vince Van Patten and Robert J Randisi put together an interesting, original, and fun mystery novel that keeps the reader interested.

Though The Picasso Flop has a poker room full of secondary characters and hangers on you do not get lost in the shuffle, something not many mystery writers can get away with easily. The novel is about ex-con and circuit poker player Jimmy Spain and his protégée Kat Landrigan as they make their way into a World Poker Tour tournament in Vegas. When the bodies start falling faster than bad hands raising the stake takes on a whole new meaning.

This is a well-written, interesting, and easy to read mystery. Jimmy Spain is an interesting main character and though his protégée seems to be there for comic effect for those who know their poker lingo as she spouts it left and right she is a fun character in her own right. The good cop bad cop duo is a bit much, especially the bad cop, but that is a matter of taste really. The secondary story about why Kat is Spain’s protégée takes a back seat for a while though Van Patten and Randisi are clever enough to bring it up from time to time to keep it in the reader’s mind without hitting him or her over the head with it.

A Picasso flop is king, queen of different suites and in some ways the bevy of characters here explains the title. I like a mystery novel that does not make you work too hard and just carries you along with it. This is one of those. The ending is a bit forced but not enough to really bug you.

This novel would make a good movie of the week. Especially if James Woods can reprise his cameo appearances. It certainly is good enough to look forward to a sequel and Vince Van Patten and Robert J. Randisi seem to promise one at the end, especially since not all the hands have been played.

Do not read the author’s notes at the back of this mystery as it contains a minor spoiler, as if the dealer’s hole card was peeking.

The Picasso Flop
Vince Van Patten and Robert J. Randisi
The Mysterious Press 2007
Hardcover 292 pages

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