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A GAMBLER'S ODYSSEY IN CONTEMPORARY MACAU

The Ballad of a Small Player: A Novel - Lawrence Osborne

Several weeks ago, I joined a local reading club which is now reading this book. At that time, I glanced at a summary of the novel and at first sight, I wasn't sure that I would like it because I'm not a great fan of contemporary novels. But this one is set in Macau which, to me, hints of exoticism and mystery. So, I took up "The Ballad of a Small Player" and I was a few pages in when I became hooked on it.

The novel is centered on a British expatriate (and fugitive from justice) who is known as "Lord Doyle" at the baccarat tables. He is a shrewd (and at times reckless) gambler at the casinos who is set on "breaking the bank" and living life on his own terms. The author fleshes out "Lord Doyle" and some of his gambling confreres with spare and sparkling prose that, as a reader, held my attention throughout. There's so much more I'd like to say --- including shedding light on the relationship Doyle had with Dao Ming, a beautiful and enigmatic woman from Mainland China whom he met one night over a game of punto banco baccarat --- but that would giving too much of the story away. Suffice it to say, if you are a fan of Graham Greene and/or Dostoevsky, you'll savor reading "The Ballad of a Small Player." It's one of those novels that punches above its weight and is perfect for reading at any time.