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The Prop: A Novel

The Prop: A Novel

5.0 1
by Pete Hautman

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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.


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.

Editorial Reviews

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 Kane, an attractive woman in her 40s, is a prop-hired to keep shorthanded poker games going at a casino owned by a Native American tribe near Tucson, Ariz. She gets paid $110 per eight-hour-shift plus health insurance, keeps any money she wins at the tables (and must make up any losses out of her own pocket). Because she's shrewd and talented, Peeky has managed to put together a small nest egg, some of which goes to her troubled 21-year-old daughter, Jaymie. Peeky's lover, Buddy Balcomb, is also a poker addict, whose own winning streak may be over. 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. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Something new for switch-hitting Hautman, who shuttles between comic crime (Doohickey, 2002, etc.) and YA fables (Godless, 2004): a sweetly twisted tale of mayhem at a tribal casino. Peeky Kane is a prop at Tucson's Casino Santa Cruz, a place she describes as "Las Vegas meets Dysfunctional Family meets the Great Spirit." In return for strategically swelling the ranks of poker players at the Santa Cruz, which is owned by a homeless tribe resurrected in 1974, she earns $416 a week and everything she can legally win, though she's got to cover her own losses. Peeky doesn't generally lose much because she's a born observer, good at noticing little details most people would miss. That's why, the night the Santa Cruz is knocked over by a clutch of clowns who kill five people and make off with over a million dollars, she instantly recognizes one of the clowns as a casino employee and another as her boyfriend. Unfortunately, this time Peeky isn't the only sharp eye on the scene, or the only one to link herself to the robbers. Worse, she's got other problems that send her life spiraling out of control. In short order, her daughter's unmasked as a crack addict whose rehab will cost $26,000; the cash Peeky would normally use to bankroll her is stolen by somebody who also takes the handgun her late husband gave her; and her hopes of replenishing her nest egg anytime soon go south when she's fired. So far, so fine-until Hector Vega, the tribal leader who put the Santa Cruz back on the map a generation ago, takes her under his wing, offers her a new job as his own personal prop and sends her into an eminently predictable gang of high-rolling thieves, swindlers and politicians. Hautman is never withouthis pleasures. This time they mostly come in the first 100 pages, before he deals the flop.

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Simon & Schuster
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Meet the Author

Pete Hautman is the author of Godless, which won the National Book Award, and many other critically acclaimed books for teens and adults, including Blank Confession, All-In, Rash, No Limit, Invisible, and Mr. Was, which was nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America. Pete lives in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Visit him at PeteHautman.com.

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The Prop 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Arizona, fortyish widow Peeky Kane works as one of three props at the Casino Santa Cruz owned by a Native American tribe. As a prop, Peeky fills in at poker tables where there are not enough players. She is paid for an eight hour shift, but wins or losses at the tables are personal income. Because she is a good money manager especially at the tables, Peeky has saved some but also finds much of her profit goes towards her troubled twenty-one year old daughter Jaymie. --- However, Peeky¿s life takes a nasty turn when crooked dealers at the casino begin stealing money and she unwittingly becomes involved in the scheme. Things spin even further out of control when clowns rob the casino of millions and leave four dead Peeky thinks her boyfriend Buddy may be one of the jokers who robbed and killed. While she finds herself drafted by Hector Vega, ¿founder¿ of the Santa Cruz tribe, to help him save the casino and subsequently the tribe, Peeky also wonders how to save crack addicted Jaymie. --- THE PROP is an exciting amateur sleuth whodunit starring a fabulous heroine whose life goes from calm to chaos in seemingly a nanosecond. The story line is action-packed but the real fun besides a delightful investigation resides in the casino where bluffing had meant winning or losing a hand, but has new meaning with one¿s life at stake. Pete Hautman coolly antes up a strong thriller that pull an inside straight fun look at poker mania. --- Harriet Klausner