You Bet Your Soul: Casino Infernale by Simon R. Green

Once a Drood, always a Drood. Even when you think you’re out of the family’s clutches, they find a way to suck you back in. That’s what Eddie Drood has discovered time and again, to his dismay. But this most recent time, he truly thought he’d escaped by going to work for the Department of the Uncanny, that secret and strange organization that serves the British government and tackles things even the Droods find a little weird. But something has come up, a threat so terrible and strange and mind-bogglingly dangerous, that Eddie’s just going to have to play nice with his family once more, like it or not.

When Crow Lee, the Most Evil Man In The World died, he left behind treasures and wonders, secrets and weapons. The Crow Lee Inheritance represents the sort of game-changing, world-ending, status quo-upsetting power that innumerable people and factions would go to war over. And not the secret wars which are commonplace in Eddie’s world of shadows, spies, and sorcery, but a war which might just spill over into the everyday world and ruin everyone’s day. Luckily, there’s a plan to stave off war: Eddie Drood and his girlfriend, the witch Molly Metcalf, must go undercover at the infamous Casino Infernale, and win. They have to break the bank and thus cripple the Shadow Bank, disrupting the cash flow and economic support for all the evil organizations of the world.

And he has to do it without the usual powers and protections afforded him as a Drood. Yeah, this isn’t going to end well…

So Eddie, in his guise as the slightly disreputable mover and shaker, Shaman Bond, must risk his very soul in order to gain entrance to the Casino Infernale. He has to play its games of life and death, and win big every time. No mistakes. No weaknesses. One bad roll or ill-timed flinch could ruin him. At the Casino, no one can be trusted, and the better you do, the higher the stakes. And without his Drood armor, he’s uncharacteristically vulnerable, something he’s not used to. He’ll find friends in short supply, and everyone wants a piece of him. Or rather, his soul. But if he breaks the bank, he’ll be a legend.

Casino Infernale is the seventh installment of Green’s Secret Histories, an urban fantasy series that takes all of Green’s usual over-the-top, manic weirdness, and injects it into a pseudo-spy thriller framework. If you couldn’t guess by the title (previous entries have included The Man With the Golden Torc, and From Hell With Love) and Eddie’s “secret identity,” this is Green doing a fairly loose James Bond pastiche. It’s set in the same world as his other urban fantasy stuff, with direct ties to the Nightside and Ghost Finders series, as well as stand-alones like Shadows Fall. This book also manages to draw in a crossover character from his Hawk and Fisher series, once again proving that literally everything Green has ever done (save for the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves novelization) is connected in one fashion or another.

And, well… if you’ve ever read anything by Simon R. Green, you probably know exactly how things will go. It’s going to be loud, messy, funny, weird, without restraint or decorum, and a whole lot of fun. Because Green writes with a freewheeling passion that’s hard to deny. He always delivers a solid story with heaping doses of extreme creativity, ultra-violence, and keen Moments of Cool. Whether he’s writing science fiction, space opera, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, or even horror, he barrels down the track at full speed, and God help anyone who gets in his way. Logic and decorum give way, and there’s no such thing as “too much.”

Which is how, at one point, Eddie and his friends end up fighting Pan’s Panzerpeople, aka the Fourth Reich Femmes. In other words, Nazi women riding Pteranodons with machine guns mounted on the saddles.

Right then. Moving along.

Look, I love these books. They’re not great literature, and they’re not going to change the world. They’re almost a guilty pleasure, except that I refuse to feel guilty for enjoying Green’s unique approach to storytelling. There are more weird ideas and interesting concepts in one chapter here than in some trilogies. Some of them are just a little oddball, like the Jackson Fifty-Five—fifty-five clones of the same unbeatable mercenary. Some are unsubtle homages to other works, like the Scarlet Lady, a rather talkative and self-aware ’58 Plymouth Fury. And some are just a little disturbing, like Dead Boy, the teenager who hasn’t let death slow him down one bit. You know you’re in for a show, no matter what else happens.

So, the plot. Despite the usual detours and distractions, it’s fairly straightforward and entertaining. As Eddie gambles for souls in order to get to the highest level of gaming within the Casino Infernale, he finds himself tested in body and soul, coming face to face with certain death and coming out of it all the stronger. There’s some progression with regards to the larger plot that looms over the series, and Eddie and Molly’s relationship grows ever stronger. (Those wacky kids. She brought him back from the dead, once. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.)

The bottom line is that if you are a Simon Green fan, you’ll enjoy this book. With its ties to the rest of his universe, and all of his other qualities present in abundance, it’s everything that’s made him a bestselling author and then some. It’s like literary crack: bad for you, but addictive nonetheless. If you’re not a fan… well, maybe you should give this series a shot anyway. At the very least, it’s the perfect remedy for sparkly vampire overdoses.

 

Casino Infernale by Simon Green is available June 4 from Roc Hardcover.


Michael M. Jones is a writer, editor, and book reviewer. He lives in Southwest VA, with a pride of cats, way too many books, and a wife who translates Geek-to-Mundane for him. He is the self-proclaimed High Pornomancer of the Golden Horde and the editor of Scheherazade’s Façade. For more information, visit him and an ever-growing archive of reviews at Schrodinger’s Bookshelf.

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