Title: The Pinch of the Game
Author: Charley Descoteaux
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 98 Pages
At a Glance: A really interesting, if slightly confusing, paranormal mystery and love story that read like a combination road trip/hot pursuit/screwball comedy.
Reviewed By: Sadonna
Blurb: Being a witch doesn’t mean one can beat the devil forever.
Jeffrey Overton, unemployed IT professional turned poker player, pushes his luck once too often and runs afoul of the host of an illegal card club. The man sent to escort Jeffrey to a “meeting” about his supernatural winning streak arrives at Jeffrey’s crappy North Portland apartment, lock-picking tools in hand and a charm to block Jeffrey’s magick.
Head muscle for said host, Mike Wells, is a Daisy from Daisyville. He isn’t a witch. What he lacks in magickal talent he makes up for in brawn, so he doesn’t expect the guy he’s after to overpower him. But once Mike renders Jeffrey helpless, he’d rather seduce him than bring him in.
Jeffrey and Michael ditch the “meeting” and end up hunting some of the same people they ran from, trying to get Jeffrey back into his own body. And that’s only part of the adventure. The pair travel halfway across the country on the quietest road trip in history and find missing people, empire-building witches, and maybe even the families they’d both thought lost to them
Review: This is a different story than the other stories I have read by this author, in that it’s really a paranormal mystery/romance. It’s kind of a combination road trip/one long chase scene/screwball comedy in some ways.
Jeffrey has gotten himself in trouble by using his magic to win at cards. The house does not like this and sends the muscle to bring him in. But, the muscle, Mike, flips all of Jeffrey’s switches, and he’d really rather spend time with Mike than anything else. When they end up on the run together, Jeffrey makes a terrible miscalculation that poses great risk to both himself and Mike.
While on the run and trying to figure out just how to fix the terrible situation they find themselves in, Jeff and Mike end up hiding out temporarily with Mike’s family. There is also the little issue of Jeffrey’s missing mother, more muscle on their tails, and a possible double-cross.
The chase leads halfway across the country, from the home ground of Portland, and draws a bunch of other bad guys (and bad magic) along with them. They aren’t sure who to trust, who is after them, or who is really calling the shots. There are a lot of near misses and some big surprises. Overall, things got a lot more confusing before they became very clear.
I really enjoyed this story, but I wish it had been longer, with additional blanks filled in. The relationship between Mike and Jeffrey is really the heart of the story, and their interaction and dialogue is always energetic. But, at times, I felt like I was missing a couple of chapters here and there. I don’t like a big info dump, but I did feel confused when various characters just “dropped in” to the action, and there wasn’t enough detail for me to figure out what they were doing there, or who they were tied to, or what their part of the game was. It was kind of like walking into a movie 15 minute after it started, where the action that occurs that kicks off the whole movie has taken place and you’ve missed it. I felt like I eventually caught up, but at times the ride wasn’t smooth.
I have enjoyed Charley Descoteaux’s writing in the past, so I welcomed the opportunity to read another longer story. I feel like the author has a unique voice and perspective, and also bases a lot of the stories in my favorite US city, Portland, Oreg0n. Overall, I’d recommend for those who enjoy a good mystery with some romance and magic on the side.
You can buy Pinch of the Game here: