Queen of Spades by Michael Shou-Yung Shum
Based on the author’s experience working as a poker dealer, Queen of Spades is a modern re-telling of the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, a highly stylized tale set in a Seattle-area casino that combines elements of a Hong Kong gambling movie with literary language and a lively cast of unforgettable characters.
The three main narrative threads follow Barbara, a recovering gambler trapped in a cultish twelve-step program; Mannheim, a pit boss at the Royal Casino who discovers he has just six months to live; and Chan, a dealer obsessed with the playing style of a mysterious customer known as the Countess. Queen of Spades invites readers into the murky realm of taking chances not just as a recreational activity but as a way of life. The beauty and complexity of the novel lies in its unique portmanteau structure, its page-turning plot, and its insider view into the late-night card-dealer’s world, where everyone yearns for more than what they have, and where luck plays a curious, fidgety role that may―given the right card at the right moment―change everything, for better or worse.