"Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know." - John Keats

"You're not allowed to say anything about books because they're books and books are, you know, God." - Nick Hornby

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review #76: Parlor Games, by Maryka Biaggio

Parlor Games is a historical novel based on a turn of the century con artist named May Dugas, who was once named the world's most dangerous woman. Told from May's point of view, the novel opens with May being sued by a Frank Shaver, a woman who was once considered her best friend, for a hundred thousand dollars.

Alternating between the present day of the trial and the events that have led up to it, May slowly seduces the reader. It wasn't until about halfway through the book that I realized just how manipulative May really was, and when I did figure it out, I was mad at myself for falling for her story. She's a compelling character, and it's hard not to like her, even once you realize that she's not who she claims to be.

The book moves from the suburbs of Chicago to the city itself, and then goes international, to Shanghai and London, and all the while, Reed Doherty, a Pinkerton agent who has made it his life's work to catch May, is hot on her heels, sometimes even a step or two ahead. May is the epitome of a woman who survives by her wits alone, and I was left wondering whether some of the tales were written a little taller than they actually were. Exaggeration or not, though, the story was a compelling one, and a very interesting peek in to the life of a woman who was definitely ahead of her time.

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