M. E. Patterson appeared on my radar completely by happenstance. He was one of those random Twitter adds that you can never remember after the fact. Either he added me based on the other people I follow, or I saw him mentioned in a Twitter post and checked his profile out myself. I was immediately intrigued by the description of his first novel, The Devil’s Hand. I used to play a bit of online poker for real money, and was actually beating the game. So an Urban Fantasy novel where the protagonist is a poker player appealed to me.
It took me a while to get around to reading it. I always seem to have either more books than I can handle at a time, or less money than I want to spend on them. Somewhere there exists a happy medium, but I haven’t found it. I finally got around to it last week, and I’m pretty glad I did.
Trent Hawkins is the so-called Luckiest Man Alive. After surviving a horrific plane crash, he goes on to capitalize on his luck in Vegas. Not unexpectedly, casino bosses and the Gaming Commission take a dim view before long. He and his wife leave Vegas, broke and blacklisted. That’s where we come in. Trent and his wife are headed back to Vegas so she can take a dream job. Things immediately begin to get weird.
A rain of fish and a hail storm herald the couple’s arrival in Las Vegas. Odd things are happening in the shop of an old friend of the family. And when a vagrant preacher comes to the children’s hospital where Susan works to try to capture a girl to whom he has no connection, the ride really begins.
Along the way, questions are answered, like “why is Trent so lucky?.” Others are raised. We’re left with a sense of closure on the current story, but an impression of what else may be to come. The Devil’s Hand is the first book in a series called Drawing Thin, and I plan to keep reading.
The writing in Devil’s Hand is evocative and sturdy. The storyline is face paced and stays interesting. The forces moving behind the scenes turn out to be familiar fare for urban fantasy and horror readers, but in an interesting permutation that’s similar to but not quite the same as many others I’ve read.
The book’s big stumbling block, like many other indy offerings is in editing. There were a few places where misspellings and the like made it into the final version of the book, and one notable instance where the declared outcome of an important hand of poker was different from that described by the action. To Patterson’s credit, when I mentioned this on Twitter he owned up to it and sent me a link to the material that had been erroneously cut, and which will be added back in the second edition.
All told, I give The Devil’s Hand 4 out of 5 stars for engaging action, well realized characters, and a refreshing take on familiar supernatural elements.
M.E. Patterson on Twitter