While performing his final trick at the performance marking the end of a forty-year run of one of Las Vegas’ most renowned burlesque shows, magician Dimitri Fortunoff appears to have a fatal accident. Then, when his body disappears, the questions mount for Lucky O’toole, head of Customer Relations for the Babylon resort, the crown jewel of the mega-resorts dotting the Las Vegas Strip. And the timing couldn’t be worse. Her live-in lover, Teddie, has morphed into a rock star and been swallowed whole by life on the road. Her mother, Mona, pregnant, petulant, and perpetually under foot is giving new meaning to the term ‘high maintenance.’ Paxton Dane, a handsome Texan long on charisma and short on history, is forcing himself into the void of Teddie’s absence, and a suave French chef is proving to be equal parts charm and venom, seasoned with a dash of irresistible.
But Lucky can’t shake the question: Did Dimitri Fortunoff really die or is this an elaborate hoax? UFO conventioneers and high-ranking magicians fill her hotel and she turns to some of them for answers: Zoom-Zoom Zewicki, a retired astronaut with an agenda all his own, Crazy Carl Colson, a psychic clinging to the edge of sanity, Marik Kovalenko, a smoldering internationally renowned magician, The Great Tursinov, a famed mentalist, Bart Griffin, late-night talk show host, and Junior Arbogast, professional cynic and hoax exposer.
The trail leads her through the miles of storm culverts under the city of Las Vegas, to the hordes of believers who gather at Rachel for a glimpse of a UFO, to hints of secret programs at Area 51, then culminates on the catwalk above the crowd attending the annual, Harry Houdini Séance on Halloween, where Lucky must risk her life to catch a killer.
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Some things in life are best savored alone — sex is not one of them.
This happy thought occurred to me while piloting a borrowed Ferrari and staring at the smiling couples filling the sidewalks along the Las Vegas Strip. Walking hand in hand, they were living, breathing reminders of the sorry state of my own love life.
"Lady! Watch out!"
I heard the shout in the nick of time. Slamming on the brakes, I narrowly avoided sliding the front end of the Ferrari under a tour bus. A sea of Japanese faces appeared like moons in the back window, peering down at me. Then cameras blocked the faces, flashbulbs popping as I shrugged and waved while trying to appear unruffled.
The young man who had shouted stepped over to the car and peered through the open roof, like a judge eyeing the accused. "Are you okay?" he asked. His face flushed, his eyes glassy, he looked like he was still recovering from last night's party or getting a head start on the next one.
"Thanks to you," I said as I restarted the car, which had stalled. "I know better than to think about sex while doing something potentially life-threatening. What was I thinking?" I cringed as the words popped out of my mouth. Even I couldn't believe I'd said that. Clearly, I needed to get a grip: First I couldn't stop thinking about sex; now I was talking about it to strangers. This was so not good.
"What were you thinking?" The kid smirked at me as he took another gulp from the glass clutched tightly in his hand. "Care to ... enlighten me?" he asked after wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his sweatshirt, which had NYU printed in bold blue on the front.
The sweatshirt looked new. He looked twelve. I felt old.
"Another time, perhaps," I lied. I didn't really intend to flirt with the kid. However, with Teddie, my former live-in, gallivanting around the globe playing rock star for the last six weeks — and the foreseeable future — my prospects looked pretty dim. Teddie and I had been really good for a while. Now, I didn't know what we were.
Sexual self-preservation clearly had kicked in.
"Go easy on those walktails," I said. "They're deadly and the night is still young." It was a blatant attempt to steer the conversation away from the current topic.
"That drink in your hand, small enough to take with you, but potent enough to leave you puking in the gutter."
The kid's face grew serious as he held up the brew for inspection, looking at it with a newfound respect. "Yes, ma'am," he said, his voice filled with awe.
My smile vanished. Despite careful study, I was still unable to figure out at precisely what moment in time I had gone from being a Miss to a Ma'am. What changed? Whatever it was, I wanted it back like it used to be — along with a few other things, but they would all take minor miracles. While I believe in magic, miracles were pushing the envelope, even for me.
I squeezed the paddle shifter and put the car in gear. Easing around the still stationary bus, I hit the gas. The night held an October chill — refreshing as the wind teased my hair. A full moon fought a losing battle as it competed valiantly with the lights of the Strip. I knew stars filled the sky, but they weren't visible in the false half-night of Las Vegas at full wattage.
My name is Lucky O'Toole and, as I mentioned, the Ferrari isn't mine. It belongs to the dealership at The Babylon, my employer and the newest addition to the Las Vegas Strip megaresort explosion. By title, I am the Head of Customer Relations. In reality, I'm the chief problem solver. If a guest at the Babylon has a "situation"— which could be anything from an unplanned marriage, an unfamiliar bed partner, a roaring headache, or an unexplained rash, to a wife and kids given a room on the same floor as the mistress's suite — I'm the go-to girl.
Actually, I love my job. And I miss Teddie. As the two appear mutually exclusive, therein lies the rub.
But, enough of that — I had wallowed in self-pity for my allotted ten minutes today. No more private pity party for me; I was on my way to the real thing.
The invitation read:
Inviting all family, friends, and former dancers to a farewell party in honor of the forty-year run of the Calliope Burlesque Cabaret. October 24, eight o'clock sharp, backstage at the Calliope Theatre, the Athena Resort and Casino. Present this invitation for admittance.
To someone in my position, being invited to parties was part of the exercise, but this was one guest list on which I never expected to find my name. I wasn't family, nor was I a former dancer — although with my six-foot frame, I guess dancing might have been a career path had I not been averse to prancing in front of strangers wearing nothing but stilettos and a thong, with twenty pounds of feathers on my head.
That left friend. As the sole individual responsible for shutting down the show, I doubted I qualified under that category either. Perhaps they invited me because of my unparalleled ability to smooth ruffled feathers, or maybe for my irritating inability to overlook a pun no matter how tortured. Who knew? However, I never could resist a good mystery, so despite the niggling feeling I'd received an invitation to my own execution, I accepted.
After having to go back to the office for the invitation, and after the near miss on the Strip, I pulled the Ferrari up to the front of the Athena. Careful to extricate myself from the low-slung car without giving the valet an eyeful up my short skirt, I then tossed the keys to him. Wrapping myself in a warm hug of cashmere pashmina to ward off the night chill, I straightened my skirt, threw back my shoulders, found a tentative balance on four-inch heels, and headed inside.
An aging Grand Dame, the Athena had seen better days. Like a ship marooned on the shoals, torn and tattered by the elements, the Athena had been savaged by time and inattention. Moored at the wrong end of the Strip, surrounded by lesser properties, she now boasted only faded glory. Her carpets stained, her walls dingy, and her décor dated, she reeked of quiet desperation. While she still boasted "The Best Seafood Buffet in Vegas" for less than twenty dollars — which brought in some of the locals — her gaming rooms were rarely more than a third full. In Vegas, folks are quick to abandon a sinking ship — even if the slots are loose and the staff friendly.
My boss, Albert Rothstein (also known as The Big Boss), recently acquired the Athena from the previous owner, who had decided the best way to beat The Big Boss was to frame him for murder. In a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, The Big Boss had eaten the canary — with my help, I'm happy to say.
The fact that The Big Boss is also my father is a closely guarded secret — so close that even I was in the dark until recently when, facing the prospect of imminent death at the hands of a heart surgeon, The Big Boss decided to come clean. I still wasn't sure how I felt about the whole thing, so I ignored it whenever possible. I was pretty happy with the way things were before the big bombshell, so I didn't see any reason to rock the boat. The Big Boss saw it differently; now that he'd claimed me — and made his relationship with my mother public — he wanted the whole world to know. Not a hooker's chance in Heaven, thank you very much. Don't get me wrong; I loved him like a father ... always had.
But who the heck wants to be the boss's daughter?
Expecting the usual sparse crowd, I was surprised to see a throng milling about the Athena's dismal lobby and spilling into the casino. Having spent my formative years in and out of Vegas hotels and my adult life working in them, I rarely noticed the fashion choices of the river of humanity that flowed through. However, tonight their choices were hard to ignore.
Space creatures of all shapes and sizes mingled, giving each other the Vulcan sign of greeting. It was like the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton used to be, but better. While I'm not that well versed in aliens, I thought I recognized a couple of Klingons, a Romulan or two, multiple Ferengi, and a collective of Borg. As the Borg passed, their faces impassive, I thought about saying "Resistance is futile" but I stifled myself. The whole thing made me realize how much I missed the Hilton's hokey institution. When they shuttered Quark's, the Hilton had closed a whole chapter of my youth. Strange new worlds must be explored, I guess.
Scattered among the Trekkers — they'd been Trekkies when I was young, but one vehement Klingon had corrected me and I was not one to argue with an angry Klingon — were little green men, bubble-headed aliens of 1950s movie fantasy, a Wookie or two, other wild Star Wars imaginings, and several truly original creations. Some of the aliens were even disguised as humans — one of whom I recognized.
Junior Arbogast, hoax exposer, fraud buster, and legend in his own mind, made his living debunking UFO sightings, alien abductions, and paranormal phenomena in general. Junior and I had bonded over an interesting outing to Area 51 — the local Air Force spook palace north of town, and the epicenter of UFO lore. He had spent an hour facedown in the dirt, a gun pointed at his head, while I endeavored to talk the Lincoln County sheriff out of arresting him, and the Cammo Guys, as the security service hired to protect and defend the perimeter were so lovingly referred to, out of perforating him. Now, each year when the spookies held their annual convention in town, Junior and I usually found time to have a drink together, which I enjoyed. Yes, he could be arrogant and a pain in the ass, but he was bright and knew BS when he saw it. I liked that about him.
Built like a fire hydrant, with a shock of wiry dishwater-blond hair, pale eyes under heavy, bushy brows, and a nose that had been broken more than once, Junior loved a good fight — the product of a childhood in the mountains of West Virginia. He didn't tolerate fools well, so he had few friends, a fact that didn't seem to bother him. How I managed to stay off his blithering idiot list was an enduring mystery.
"Are you merely observing the mating rituals of alien life-forms, or are you looking for the next Mrs. Arbogast?" I whispered as I sidled in next to him.
"Ah, the great quipster, Lucky O'Toole. I was wondering when you'd turn up," Junior mumbled through a mouthful of hot dog. He swallowed, then took a healthy swig from his gallon-size Bucket-o-Beer. "You jest, but I'll have you know," he continued, "a renowned professor at one of this country's most storied institutions of higher learning postulated that all alien abductions around the world could be explained as a simple cross-species breeding project."
"So everything really is about sex?"
"Especially in Vegas. If sex doesn't happen here, why come?" Junior stuffed in the last of his hot dog and washed it down with more beer.
Why indeed, I thought as I watched the UFO aficionados — some true believers, but mostly half-baked hangers-on who liked a good party with a weird group of folks. I could identify — I lived there.
People and aliens packed in around us, their energy infectious. A television crew trailed one of the local talking heads apparently on the prowl for content for a "wacky and wonderful" segment for the nightly news. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something.
"What's going on?" I asked Junior, since he appeared to be waiting as well.
"We're all about to witness a spectacular example of professional suicide."
"Really? Whose?" I felt the inner flicker of some primal calling — probably the same unsavory instinct that draws us all to the scene of disaster. I didn't like it.
"Ah," I said, not needing any more explanation.
"Zoom-Zoom" Zewicki had been a train wreck waiting to happen for years. A former astronaut and the twentieth-something man launched into space, with a PhD in some obscure science from one of the world's foremost universities, Zoom-Zoom had one major affliction: He used to be somebody. In recent years, he had resorted to quirkier and more outlandish stunts to make sure we all remembered that.
"This must be my lucky day. First I get to witness professional suicide, then I get to preside at a funeral."
"My, you're a glutton for punishment." Junior wadded up the paper wrapper from his hot dog and stuffed it in his pocket.
"That will be my epitaph," I said, only half joking. "I'm sure 'taking punishment' is part of my job description but, fool that I am, I didn't read the fine print. So, what treat does Zoom-Zoom have in store for us?" I glanced at my watch — eight-fifteen. Fashionably late to the party, I still had a few more minutes before my tardiness would be considered another salvo in my one-man war on the Calliope Girls. The war was a figment of their imaginations, of course, but I didn't want to toss any unnecessary grenades.
Before Junior had time to answer, a hush fell over the crowd. Heads turned as Zoom-Zoom stepped to a podium on a dais at the far end of the lobby.
A short man who kept himself fighting trim, Dr. Zewicki wore his hair military short, his shirts pressed, his slacks creased, and a look of encroaching madness in his dark eyes. He leaned in to the microphone, got too close, then drew back with a jerk as if the resulting squeal was from a snake coiled to strike.
"Thank you all for coming." This time he got the distance to the mike just right. His unexpectedly deep voice echoed around the marble lobby and rippled over the crowd. He waited until the last reverberation died before continuing. "My statement will be brief and I won't accept any questions at this time. For those of you who wish to know more, I will be holding a formal presentation Thursday night, in Rachel, as part of Viewing Night."
Expectant murmurs rolled like waves through the crowd.
Dr. Zewicki fed on the attention of the crowd like an alien spacecraft sucking electromagnetic energy from a thunderstorm. Pausing, he milked it, then waited a few beats more until every head turned his direction, every voice quieted. Staring at the crowd, a serious expression on his face, he pulled himself to his full height and announced, "I have recently experienced an alien abduction."
The murmurs of the crowd rose on a cresting wave of expectation.
"My abductor's message is simple and twofold: When we die, they come and take our spirits. Some spirits pass through to the next life, but those of us with unresolved issues — those who were murdered, perhaps — live on with the aliens. And now they wish to open a channel."
The wave of expectation broke into a cascade of excited voices, flooding the lobby with a rushing torrent of questions. ... Questions that would remain unanswered: Zoom-Zoom Zewicki had left the stage.
Stunned, I needed a few moments to find my voice. "Did he just say what I thought he said?"
"Tortured souls live on with the aliens and Dr. Zewicki can talk to them."
"I'm sure the homicide division at Metro will be thrilled to have alien assistance." I shrugged off a chill that shivered down my spine. Talk of murder messed with the Vegas magic — magic that was part of my job to deliver.
Junior looked at me, his face inscrutable. "Talk about a meteor hitting the atmosphere! A lifetime of achievement incinerated, just like that." He snapped his fingers in front of my face.
"The death of a star," I whispered.
"And the birth of a pop-culture icon," announced Junior, his voice as hard as flint.
Zoom-Zoom Zewicki had just pegged the fraud buster's bullshit meter.
I left Junior plotting the pulverization of the last remaining pebbles of Dr. Zewicki's reputation, and headed toward the Calliope Burlesque Theatre on the far side of the casino. Working my way through the throng took me longer than I anticipated. I had just reached the edge of the crowd when I felt a hand on my arm.
"Ms. O'Toole?" Young and soft, the voice was unfamiliar.
"Yes." I turned and found myself staring down at a blue-eyed Ferengi.
Excerpted from "So Damn Lucky"
Copyright © 2012 Deborah Coonts.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I couldn’t put this book down. Between the magicians determined to commit murder, the bombshell from her Madame mother, Teddy’s touring and Paxton Dane, Lucky is hopping. Throw in a French Chef and you have a recipe for laughter.
Okay still lots of ups & downs in Lucky's love life, now we'll throw in some UFO mysteries, and off we go. Another great adventure & I'm off to read the next one.
If you like Janet Evonavich books you will LOVE the Lucky series. CB
The author has a great way with words but this story didn't click with me. The subject matter didn't appeal and it just seemed to be all over the place. Love all the extended characters except Jean-Charles who seems phony to me. How does anything get done in this hotel?? All they do is eat and drink on the job.
Great character, hot guys, and a fun setting with fast paced action!
The opening line of Deborah Coonts’ new book, the third in the Lucky O’Toole series [following “Wanna Get Lucky?” and “Lucky Stiff,”] is eye-catching, to wit: “Some things in life are best savored alone - - sex is not one of them.” And that sets the tone of the novel, bringing back the six foot tall Head of Customer Relations at a Las Vegas Strip hotel, i.e., the chief problem solver, hired by Albert Rothstein, owner of several of the biggest hotels in the town, usually just referred to as The Big Boss. As the book opens, it is October 24th, and things are gearing up for one of the biggest events of the year in Vegas: the Houdini Séance, held on Halloween, the anniversary of the great magician’s death, attended by most of the tourists who have invaded the town, as well as many prominent magicians All manner of quirky characters are introduced, probably none more deserving of that description than Lucky’s mother, Mona, owner of Mona’s Place, “the self-styled ‘Best Whorehouse in Nevada.’” The family dynamics are unusual, to say the least, but never less than interesting. Her friends include Federika “Flash” Gordon, “Las Vegas’ most tenacious investigative reporter,” and young LVPD detective Romeo [his name, not a soubriquet]. Much of the early part of the book deals with Lucky’s problem dealing with the fact that her recent love, Vegas’ reigning female impersonator, now a budding rock star, has gone off to Europe to follow his dream, leaving her with “hormonally driven leaps of lust” sparked, literally, by the touch of any one of several male acquaintances and colleagues. Among the plot points are a top hat, a rabbit, death threats, a vanishing magician, an astronaut who talks to dead people, and a group of believers in “the murky realm of fringe science” attending a UFO conference. As the author describes it, “Vegas is like Brigadoon - - a magical city that appears when the sun sets and the lights come on, where anything can happen.” I had not read the earlier entries in the series and did not know what to expect, but I enjoyed this tale of Lucky and her environs and found it an enjoyable summer read.
I dove right into this book after finishing Lucky Stiff, since the ending left us with sort of a shock regarding Lucky's mother. The story line in So Damn Lucky revolves around the disappearance of a magician. That in and of itself wouldn't be too strange, especially in a city like Las Vegas, but the circumstances surrounding the disappearance become more and more peculiar and suspicious. While trying to help solve the case, Lucky also has to deal with her confusing and unstable love life. Once again, I absolutely loved the characters. I love reading about her parent's relationship; they're like teenagers and are so cute together. I enjoyed getting to know the new chef, Jean-Charles more in this book. My first impression of him in Lucky Stiff was that he was a jerk; in So Damn Lucky, we learn more about his life and my opinion of him completely changed. Paxton Dane is his usually yummy self (I don't know how Lucky resists him). And then there's Teddie... On one hand I was so happy that Teddie was finally able to live his dream and be a star. Unfortunately, distance is rough on a relationship. It was hard to judge what was going to happen between Lucky and Teddie, as well as the rest of the men in her life, but it sure had me turning the pages as fast as I could to find out! If you're looking for a fast-paced novel with humor and romance then you should definitely make yourself acquainted with the Lucky O'Toole series, especially this newest installment. I don't know what is in store for the characters next, but I know I'm definitely along for the ride!
I love Las Vegas so I loved the book. Great characters good plot.
Deborah Coonts's book is hysterically funny, strange, light-hearted and a mystery in so many ways! Deborah is a nut-case, she's so funny! I had a great adventure reading "Lucky." Here's the thing about Coonts; she's a wonderful mix of a good writer, a satirist and a student of people. She's also a comedian. "So Damn Lucky" is the best trip you'll ever take to Las Vegas! If you've never been there, you only have to pick up this book to experience it. I laughed myself off the chair in the first chapter visualizing the exact characters she portrays that I'd seen there myself! This is a side-buster of a book, and a great mystery, too. Viva Las Vegas, absolutely captured and delivered in the hands of "Lucky" and Deborah Coonts...Elvis is definitely still alive there, so are aliens and missing persons! If you're looking for a book to make you laugh and read like a bandit, and that will keep you wide-eyed with the joy of finding out about crazies and cons, this is the one for you. I found it a refreshing oasis from the books I've been reading lately. It's not always good to have a steady stream of the serious and fantasy world...once in a while it's so nice to have a sorbet between courses. "So Damn Lucky" is the raspberry sorbet of a book that will have your literary palate tingling. You have to get this book. Do yourself a huge favor and take a trip to Vegas by way of "So Damn Lucky," you can't have a better trip!!!
Reviewed BY~Marissa Review Copy Provided By~Publisher There are several reasons why I like Deborah Coonts’ character Lucky O’Toole. First off, she has a demanding yet rewarding job at a high profile, high-class hotel/resort in Las Vegas. She also gets to wear designer clothes without worrying about how expensive they are, and she can wear high-heels and not trip or stumble in them (and her feet don’t get sore after five minutes like mine do!). Her tall, handsome, talented boyfriend looks good in both jeans and evening gowns. Her mother is an out-spoken ex-prostitute-now-madam. Her father is also her boss. Her assistant can anticipate her needs, even before Lucky knows what those are. Lastly (and probably the best of all), she gets to drive high-performance sports cars without paying for them. Yes, Lucky seems to have it all. Only in this book, she starts losing some of it. It’s a fun ride whenever Lucky gets in the Ferrari and this time is no different - and another great adventure as I attempted to solve the mystery right along with her. This third installment in the series has Lucky dealing with magicians, UFOs, an ex-lover, a new lover, an old woman who wants to marry her dog, and an over-sexed couple from Muskogee, not to mention the usual chaotic family and friends. I’m hoping that some of these new characters make future appearances in Lucky books down the line. It seems to me that the third book in a character series is typically where an author “jumps the shark” and tries to make the character more interesting by having them do outlandish and ridiculous things. Conversely, the character starts to die a slow and painful death, becoming less and less interesting with each book. Lucky, however, does not disappoint. She is strong-willed, just out-spoken enough to be interesting, and keeps her attraction to several men going strong. I mean, just because we decide to become monogamous with someone doesn’t mean we lose appeal for any other man on the planet; yet most books would have us believe that’s how it should be. Coonts pshaws that theory. Lucky has a lover, Teddie, yet she has been fascinated and attracted to two other men at the same time – Dane Paxton, six-foot-four of rugged Texas stock, and Jean-Charles Bouclet, a yummy French chef she is currently working with on a new restaurant. *sigh* Yes, Lucky really does have it all. Favorite Quote: “Are all men compulsively self-absorbed?“…”Is there an antidote to gross stupidity, or is it an incurable part of the Curse of the Y Chromosome?”
I have been a fan of Deborah Coonts writing ever since I first laid eyes on one of the Lucky O'Toole books. The author has a way of sucking in a reader and never loosening her grip. So Damn Lucky offers an interesting plot with a memorable main character. I recommend reading the series in order, because once you get a taste, you will be hungry for another. Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of this book from FSB Associates for review purposes. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.