Parlor Games: A Novel

Parlor Games: A Novel

by Maryka Biaggio
4.3 15


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Parlor Games: A Novel by Maryka Biaggio

A sparkling historical novel based on the remarkable true story of turn-of-the-century con artist May Dugas, once dubbed America's "Most Dangerous Woman.”

It’s 1887, and eighteen-year-old May Dugas has ventured to Chicago in hopes of earning enough money to support her family. Yet when circumstances force her to take up residence at the city’s most infamous bordello, she chooses to use her feminine wiles to extract not only sidelong looks but also large sums of money from the men she encounters. Insinuating herself into high society, May lands a well-to-do fiancé—until, that is, a Pinkerton detective named Reed Doherty intervenes.
Reed has made it his mission to bring May to justice, and he pursues her across the world, from Shanghai to London and back, until he makes one last daring attempt to corner her. But May still has a few tricks up her sleeve, tricks that just might prove she’s one tough woman to catch.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307950895
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/08/2013
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 808,639
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.06(h) x 0.84(d)

About the Author

Maryka Biaggio, a former psychology professor, has many scholarly publishing credits to her name, but Parlor Games is her debut novel. Maryka loves the challenge of starting with actual historical figures and dramatizing their lives—imagining what motivated them to behave as the did, studying how the cultural and historical context may have influenced them, and recreating some sense of their emotional world through dialogue and action. She travels extensively, for both work and pleasure, is crazy about opera, and enjoys gardening, art films, and, of course, great fiction. She lives in Portland, Oregon, that edgy green gem of the Pacific Northwest.

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Parlor Games: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Parlor Games, written in the first person voice of May Dugas, gives away the game with a neat device in the opening paragraph. May starts by trying to sweet-talk the reader. We know her "inner" character immediately--she's a con-artist. May moves through this book with her eye always on the main-chance; if she's smart enough to survive, why shouldn't she prosper at the same time. May is developed in terms of actions and I can't think of a better way to explore a sociopathic personality. The driving force of May Dugas' life is action/reaction, not inner reflection. She careens from one cliff-hanger to another--sometimes improving her financial or social status along the way. May is quick witted, a quick study,has "gumption", and is determined not to live life as a poor person if better odds are within reach. Using her beauty (and the charm she picks up along the way) as a tool upon rich men, she repeatedly improves her odds. But, rich men are not without their own weapons; throughout the book, May is haunted by a Pinkerton detective, hired by rich men. The Pinkerton man often drives the crises in this book, which in turn drive the non-stop action. Another interesting characteristic of this book is attention to period detail--architecture, clothing, luxury items, etc. May Dugas, the quick study, picks up on the details she needs to know to move in her preferred circles. She sees the surface details of the life of the rich and absorbs them almost by osmosis--that is her character development. As a fan of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley series (and the TV series Dexter), I enjoyed May Dugas' story for the guilty pleasure of rooting for a charming and quick-witted criminal (though May omitted murder from her bag of tricks). What's amazing is that May was real and the major events in Parlor Games did happen. Using the major true events as a framework, the author has invented and fleshed out a convincingly engaging story of the in-between events that get May Dugas from major event A to major event B and so on. This is a fast-paced and fun read telling of the roller coaster life of a genuine picaresque "heroine".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a great trip I just came back from and I didn't even need to leave my couch.  Grab "Parlor Games" and experience life with May from her humble home in Menominee to many exquisite  hotels throughout the world.  I loved the journey that Ms Biaggio created for me.  The shenanigans of May will make you laugh out  loud.  I can't wait to share this book with my book-club as it will spark many lively discussions.  Well done Maryka Biaggio!!! BRAVO
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This a quirky novel that holds your attention. It is based on an actual lady that was a "con" artist. The novel includes prostitution, traveling, many lovers, a trial, a detective, a faithful servant, two goofy brothers, a beautiful necklace, high society, Michigan, Londan, Hong Kong, and more. The main character is funny and fascinating. This novel is an easy and fast read. The book deserves an A++++++
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maggie-Meandering More than 1 year ago
Rating 4.5 I read this book as part of my monthly book group meeting. May Dugas was an actual woman pursued for ten years across several continents by the same Pinkerton Detective. Her trial in Chicago is well documented and the detective gave a full account of his pursuit to a Chicago Times journalist in 1940. The detective referred to her as: "The most dangerous woman in the world". Yet she never killed anyone and, as far as we know, never actually stole money from anyone. What she did do was use her seductive powers to bring herself into the orbit of wealthy men and then spent their money rather recklessly for her own gain. She is what we might call today a social climber—albeit a very clever and calculating one. The book is written in the first person, interweaving the actual trial with backstory chapters where May describes what “really” happened that got her to that trial. Normally I don’t like this kind of alternating chapters style, but this was well done and I believe a great choice to tackle this material and this particular woman. The trial chapters give the reader a different view of events from what May describes. The reader is immediately pulled in to May’s view of her innocence. One can’t help but admire her initial desire to help her family, and the difficulties of being a woman in a man’s world—where you have little rights to property or other possessions without marriage. As with any unreliable narrator, even when I thought I was being conned I still wanted to root for her to be found innocent. Even though I didn’t really trust her, I often found myself asking, if she were a man would she have been on trial at all? May certainly uses her feminine beauty and seductive powers to get what she wanted. I found her to be passionate, totally self-centered, and yet tantalizingly cunning and constant in marching toward her goals. Coming from a poor background in the midst of the gilded age at the turn of the century, May understood all too well that society judged one’s worth by possessions rather than character. The writing is solid, the research is amazing, and the way in which May’s character is slowly revealed to the reader makes this a great psychological study of perception and rationalization on both May’s part and the men of that time. The only reason I couldn’t give this book a clear 5 is that I did find myself losing interest a little after the midpoint due to the repetitive nature of her life—seduce someone, buy more things, leave and move onto someone else. She did travel to many places in the world as she climbed to the top rungs of society. I hung in because I was invested in seeing how the trail would turn out and how May would take her just desserts. I’m glad I stayed with it to the end because I believe it is true to the actual events as much as possible and, for me, justice was served. Perhaps even May learned something and gave something back to the world. I won’t reveal how she does give back because you must read the book first. Definitely well done and I would definitely read another book by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book....I still have the last 75 pages to read. It is one of those books that although you can't put it down, you don't want to finish it. Great character development. A fast paced adventure. You just imagine yourself right in the plot living her adventures. Would love to read more of Maryka Biaggio
Gem16 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. The many adventures May had in her lifetime were ahead of the times. I would have liked to have been her assistant and travel right along.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Parlor Games.  The main character of May Dugas is lively, interesting  and very well drawn.  The period is accurately described.  The book held my interest from beginning to end. It’s a real page turner.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, particularly works with a formidable female protagonist. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Parlor Games is an extremely well-written book by first-time author Biaggio. The protagonist really existed which makes the story all the more compelling. Who was the real May Dugas? We'll never really know but this book creates an unforgettable portrait of a singular woman who lived in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Enthusiastically recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
amyhannah More than 1 year ago
This is a fun story and definitely evocative of the time and setting. The main character seems to entrap and trick everyone she interacts with, even the reader at some points. If you like historical fiction about women and being transported to a different time and place through storytelling, you will probably enjoy this book. My one complaint is the ending - it felt like the author simply stopped writing, instead of providing a definitive conclusion to May's story. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A page turner! Kept me interested from page one to finish. A 5 star all the way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You hear sometimes in the news of women who live by their beauty and their wits. This book gives you some idea of how.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago