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Waterstones Book Club brings together the best Fiction and Non-Fiction paperbacks of the year, showcasing a blend of new and established writers across a range of genres and subjects.
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This week, we're reading...
The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne
‘A perfectly written existential thriller, a spooky, gripping, heart-in-your-mouth read that has profound things to say about the only god who rules human affairs – chance.’ New Statesman
His name is Lord Doyle. His plan: to gamble away his last days in the dark and decadent casino halls of Macau. His game: baccarat punto blanco - 'that slutty dirty queen of casino card games.'
Though Doyle is not a Lord at all. He is a fake; a corrupt lawyer who has spent a career siphoning money from rich clients. And now he is on the run, determined to send the money - and himself - up in smoke.
So begins a beguiling, elliptical velvet rope of a plot: a sharp suit, yellow kid gloves, another naughty lemonade and an endless loop of small wins and losses.
When Lady Luck arrives in the form of Dao-Ming, a beautiful yet enigmatic lost soul, so begins a spectacular and unnatural winning streak in which millions come Doyle's way.
But in these shadowy dens of risk and compulsion, in a land governed by superstition, Doyle knows that when the bets are high, the stakes are even greater.
"One of the best books I’ve read in years. Ballad of a Small Player is a dark, blackly comic novel about a conman who has fled England and intends to gamble away his money and his life in Macau.
Although this is accessible, literary fiction – the plot moves at a fast pace, with the gambling scenes in particular being a master-class in building tension. When the protagonist finally pushes his luck too far, Ballad transforms into a stylish, elegant thriller that stands favourable comparison with the greats.
Osborne is one of the most exciting English writers alive right now, with both his talents and his obsessions likened to those of Graham Greene. Highly Recommended.”
Joe Knobbs, Waterstones Crime Buyer