Bluff – A Novel by Michael Kardos
“Every magician knows the art of hiding truth in plain sight, to pull off an amazing trick. And every cardsharp knows that with sleight of hand, there shouldn’t be any trick to speak of. In his new novel, BLUFF, Michael Kardos takes us deep inside the fraught and fascinating story of a modern magician who plunges herself into the dark underworld of the card cheat.
At twenty-seven, magician Natalie Webb is already a has-been. A card trick prodigy, she took first place at the World of Magic competition at eighteen and never reached such heights again. Shunned by the magic world after a disastrous liaison with an older magician, she now lives alone with her doves and a pile of overdue bills in a New Jersey apartment. In a desperate ploy to make extra cash, she follows up on an offer to write a feature magazine article on the art of cheating cards. While scoping out the story in Atlantic City, she stumbles upon an unlikely poker cheat – a mousey kindergarten teacher named Ellen, Natalie is instantly dazzled by Ellen’s sleight of hand and soon finds herself facing a proposition to help pull off a $1.5 million magic trick that, if done successfully, no one will ever even suspect happened.
If you’re wondering how much of the truth Kardos is hiding in his pages, he likes to say that all the magic in the book is REAL. The novel’s premise of shadowing a professional cardsharp is rooted in a story Kardos once heard from a former studen and magician. Kardos himself, being a magician, deeply researched every detail of the magic and poker so every false deal, top, bottom, and middle, and gambler’s cop, was a real possibility.”
That’s the ad copy. Here’s my copy… BLUFF was a surprisingly well-written novel, detailing the involvement of a young female magician in the world of poker and cardsharps. Being a magician, I read the novel with critical eyes, looking for chinks in the armor. There were so few that pointing it out would be a waste of time. It was obvious BLUFF was written by someone who understood the mindset of a magician and the critical thinking of a professional cardsharp.
Without revealing too much, I was entertained by the magician trying to catch the cardsharp at her own game, insisting that the winning hand in one session could only result from the elusive center deal. Then, listening to the cardsharp explain the real truth and philosophy as only a cardsharp could. That was the moment I able to let go of my preconceived notions of the author ‘probably’ not being qualified to write about this elusive subject.
That was the moment I was able to sit back and enjoy the premise, the characters, and the complex plot. I found myself going with the flow and not being critical of the characters or the story, as magicians are prone to do.
At 276 pages, BLUFF was plenty long to explain the story in detail.. but not too long to lose my interest. I’ve read my share of 800 and 900 page novels, and aside from the glorious writing, I’ve often wished for the novels to end. No so with BLUFF, as I became enamored to the characters and actually felt a twinge of regret as the novel was brought to a climatic end.
Not as the editor of the Magic Roadshow, but as a friend, I recommend BLUFF to all my readers. You’ll consider it time well spent, particularly considering that magic and gambling related novel, good novels, are so few and far between.
( The Mysterious Press, April 3, 2018, hardcover $26.00.. 978-0-8023-2804-1)
$19.07 at Amazon.. Buy Bluff