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    Review of THE JAKE OF DIAMONDS by Don Von Elsner

    Max Hardy, 1982

    Jake Winkman, bridge professional, decides to write a book on how we can all become bridge pros and make a great living ($50k in 1960s dollars) while living in swank hotels and having all the women we ever want. To tell the story, he'll take us through a normal tournament. But as he tells the story, things start to spin out of control. It starts when someone plants stolen diamonds in his beach towel. And then there's the dead body in his hotel shower. And before Jake can say two-clubs, he's in trouble with the police and is starting to pick up hints of international incident.

    But Jake is intent on teaching us to be bridge pros. He takes us through some interesting hands and describes the type of logic that professional bridge players use to make their decisions--and to help their less skillful partners. It turns out that bridge logic and bridge-trained memory aren't only useful at the bridge table, however. When pushed, Jake finally uses his honed mind to figure out who is really behind the thefts, and identify both victim and killer.

    Author Don Von Elsner (see more reviews of novels by Von Elsner) does a fun job mixing useful bridge information with adventure. Jake's attitudes toward women and casual sex were probably liberated by the standards of the time this book was written in the 1960s, but seem terribly outdated now, as do the fears of Communism that lurk behind some of the dangers Jake Winkman faces. Likewise, the bridge world has changed--with sadly fewer young faces of the type Jake frequently met. But THE JAKE OF DIAMONDS isn't all history lesson. There's a lot of fun stuff here--and fascinating bridge. My discovery of this series (years ago) sparked my interest in serious bridge--which says something for the compelling power of story.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 4/30/04

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