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Queen of Spades

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  101 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Queen of Spades revamps the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, transplanted to a mysterious Seattle-area casino populated by a pit boss with six months to live, a dealer obsessing over the mysterious methods of an elderly customer known as the Countess, and a recovering gambler who finds herself trapped in a cultish twelve-step program. With a breathtaking climax that ...more
Published October 10th 2017 by Forest Avenue Press
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  101 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Dec 11, 2017 rated it liked it
How could I not pick this up. Michael Shou-Yung Shum is a poker dealer and sometime rave DJ in between getting a doctorate in Psychology and another in English - as you do. What sealed the deal was reading an excerpt from the book over at the Literary Hub. There's a precise sense of growing tension and this works well as a standalone short story that feels like the Coen Brothers meets Chuck Palaniuk. It's seriously good.

In Queen of Spades we've got a poker dealer at a worn around the edges casin
Chelsea Barth
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A retelling of a Pushkin fable by the same name, Michael Shou-Yung Shum's debut novel centers around the mysterious Royal Casino. It tells the story of a dying pit boss, an ex-gambler in a 12-step program, and a new dealer who is captivated by the Royal's most mysterious customer- The Countess. The three stories converge in a breathtaking climax that attests to Shou-Yung Shum's incredible writing skills.

It is hard to believe that this is Shou-Yung Shum's first novel, the writing is elegant and t
Erin Glover
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I had no idea a story about casino dealers would hold my attention, especially when there were 13 rules for the game Faro described in the beginning pages. But it did hold my attention. What hit home the most for me was the way Shou-Yung Shum juxtaposed the mathematical probabilities of winning, where one takes into account the weight of the ink on the cards, and the effect of gravity at certain times of the year such as solstices; against pure intuition and luck, where one considers sensations ...more
Mareli Thalwitzer
Oct 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, arc
This review was first published on

Queen of Spades revamps the classic Pushkin fable of the same name, transplanted to a mysterious Seattle-area casino populated by a pit boss with six months to live, a dealer obsessing over the mysterious methods of an elderly customer known as the Countess, and a recovering gambler who finds herself trapped in a cultish twelve-step program. With a breathtaking climax that rivals the best Hong Kong gambling movies, Michae
Apr 22, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joe Kucharski
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Adapting a 19th Century Russian fable into a contemporary setting, albeit one 30 some years back in the hey-days of the early eighties, and from a first-time author no less, can be considered a gamble. With Queen Of Spades, Michael Shou-Yung Shum doubles down and beats the house. And as much as I would like for that to be the last gambling metaphor of the review, the speed and tone of the book simply will not allow me to throw down markers on Odd when the roulette wheel will definitely come up E ...more
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a cracking tale! As soon as I saw the title, I knew I had to read it. Although "Queen of Spades" isn't my favorite of Pushkin's stories--that honor goes to his "Little Tragedies"--it's certainly a classic for a reason. This version, set in a casino in Snoqualmie in the 1980s, is a loose adaptation that maintains the essential premise--an obsessed gambler, an impossibly old and lucky Countess, and a fatal game of Faro--while modifying it enough that even readers familiar with Pushkin's tale ...more
Milos Mojsilovic
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pit boss, a Countess, a dealer, and a recovering gambler meet in the High Limit Salon for a game of Faro.

At least that's how the story ends. This book is about chance, and the events that led to that faithful night in the Royal Casino.

And here, you're introduced to the characters, and the events that led them there.

This Michael Shou-Yung Shum's debut novel is based on Pushkin's short tale "The Queen of Spades". It is a work of fiction, best described as a gambling fairy tale, with suspenseful
Ilyssa Wesche
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. I was a little worried at first that it would be too magical realism for me, but I sort of let my literal expectations go and happily there were only one or two moments where I had to work at suspending my disbelief. But the book as a whole was written in a way that I sort of floated along the story, so I didn't mind those parts. Parts of this almost reminded me of reading Bukowski, in a way, with the gambling and the last-chances.
May 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: uni-days
As I received the message I was allowed to get an early copy of this book in order to review it after, I grew enormously suspicious. The author's debut, hm? I was deeply afraid I might be disappointed. What else to expect from a rather inexperienced writer?

Luckily The Queen of Spades did NOT disappoint at all. It took me all into the world of gambling, taking a glimpse into the different kinds of a dealer's life.
Though the title reminds a bit of The Queen of Hearts, as in Alice Adventures in W
Jim Loter
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Queen of Spades" is set just down the road from me (sort of) in Snoqualmie, Washington, at the fictional Royal Casino. Dealer Arturo Chan is hired by the pit boss, Mannheim, who is secretly dying of an unknown ailment and visits a mystic healer (and her young nephew) for relief. Meanwhile, fellow dealer Chimsky and his ex-wife Barbara struggle with their gambling addictions.

Chan is highly skilled, precise, and professional, and seems unflappable. But he becomes intrigued by an elderly patron ni
Star Grace
May 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
The suspense is killing me! This story is placed in Western Washington in a little town that only the locals might know. Makes the book even more special to Washingtonians. That aside this is a all around fantastic story. Very well devolved involving a tangled web around the Royal Casino. From the first bet placed you are hooked. The author does a fantastic job including explanations of the different type of games and casino life without boring the avid card play or insult the ignorant. You migh ...more
Adam Yates
May 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Proof from Netgalley (released this October). Apparently it's an adaptation from the famous Pushkin short story of the same name. I can't claim to know the original only that the world of gambling and gambling literature intrigues me. It was a short tale but I connected with the characters and the setting but due to my ignorance, I can only assume there are many underlying themes in 'Queen of Spades' which allude my limited brainspace. I'm sure there are metaphors a plenty but for me, it was a d ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wasn’t sure what I was going to think about this – it was a bit out of my comfort zone and I have not read the short story the novel is based on. But I thought the author did a wonderful job developing the characters and I found myself fascinated with the behind the scenes workings of the casino. Nice debut and an enjoyable read. I think it would make a great movie!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. It's one that will stay with me for the beauty and mystery of the story, and the confidence of the story telling. The book moves quickly, the various points of view give it a good texture, each POV taking the narrative further. The characters are quirky and interesting, the setting (casino/gambling) is compelling and the author offers just the right amount of detail in explaining the games without overwhelming. I absolutely recommend this book and look forward to more f ...more
Melissa Fish
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
A novel set in the 80s in a casino town I've never heard of, with storylines involving magic, gambling, violent bookies, mysterious women, and the delicate plane of our existence, this is unlike anything I have read in a few years, and I loved it. This is going to be a hit with book clubs, especially readers like myself who have had it up to the chin with family dynamic plot lines.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Shum weaves together psychology, relationship, Pacific Northwest, new age philosophy and always the lure of gambling - playing Faro, rolling dice, going to the races - in this unusual novel of mystery, chance and perhaps redemption.
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great gambling novel. Feels highly cinematic. Slightly disappointing ending, but held together by intriguing themes of fate, chance and addiction and full of interesting characters.

In the interest of transparentcy: thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a free review copy. It didn't sway my reading of it, but it's just as well to mention these things.
Jun 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Annette Jordan
While I am not familiar with the Pushkin tale that inspired this book, I enjoyed the tale as told here. The greatest strength of the book is the fantastic cast of characters, each with a particular link to gambling, from the dealer to the recovering addict to the mysterious Countess who gambles vast sums on the single turn of the card. Each character is well developed as are the connections between them, and it is these connections and relationships that drive the plot of the book to it's dramat ...more
Gilion Dumas
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Queen of Spades is a debut novel that retells Pushkin's short story of the same name, but sets it in a Washington state casino in the 1980s. It's a terrifically imaginative story that grabs you from the first page. I love it!
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Arturo Chan auditions to become a dealer in a high end casino, where he observes the players from his point of view. One player catches his eye and the book focuses on his attempt to figure out the mysterious senior citizen, known as the Countess, that rarely plays, but when she does, its very systematic. He even follows her limo one night to find out where she maintains residence.
First time author, Michael Shoutouts-Yung Shum has a very strong page-turning story. I enjoyed the descriptions and
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Although I've never read the original Pushkin short story upon which this novel is based, my enjoyment was not diminished one bit. Inside the world of a 1980's-era casino, we meet distinct characters who have complex relationships with gambling and the highs and lows it brings. Michael Shou-Yung Shum deftly weaves the stories of each together, while maintaining an interesting plot.

I was grateful to receive an ARC from NetGalley!
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
While I've never read the original Pushkin story, this novel is thoroughly enjoyable. It had the flavor of a retelling, but it still seemed original and had its own personality. All the characters are well-written and relatable, and while we don't learn too much about their past (I would have enjoyed a little more detail), there is enough so that we can understand each character and carry on with the story.

Thank you NetGalley for the review copy!
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-reads
Fantastic debut; would make a great movie. Vivid, interesting characters that felt fresh.
Mary Montgomery
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Extremely absorbing. I know nothing of gambling but this was fun. Kind of unlikely (maybe) but the characters seem real to me.
I was sent this book in exchange for a review—sorry it took so long!

Okay, first thing to note here: I know nothing about gambling. I don’t know how to play poker, or blackjack, or any of the other games mentioned here. Sadly, the author lost me a little over some of the gambling terminology (there is a very handy glossary is the back, though!) and that’s on me.

Now that that’s out of the way: I really enjoyed this book! I found the characters to be realistic and fun to read about, even side ones
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-fiction, pnw-lit
Really excellent debut novel!

The book is about a casino, and the pacing seemed to mimic a gambling game. It starts slow, but interesting, introducing each character and their life and motivations. The story builds slowly as the characters' lives overlap and you see their challenges and joys.

I couldn't stop reading! And when I finished, I wanted to start over again and catch the clues I missed the first time!

It's based on a famous Pushkin novel by the same name, which I have not read.

Definitely r
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A lovely novel, far better written and more self-assured than most debuts on larger presses. The problem with fiction about gambling is that no one cares if an imaginary person wins or loses money -- for the reader to invest, the real stake must be the soul. How can the soul of a transient dealer of table games, not even wagering on the outcome, come to be at hazard? Read and find out.

My only critique is reserved for the way Chan plays his pat nine in the dealer’s choice chapter ;)
Ian Allan
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.6 stars.

I liked having the book in my hands. It's got a cool cover, and it includes artwork -- as the cards are being dealt, they have pictures of them in there with the text.

I live in the Seattle area, which was a plus for me -- I'm not far away from the Snoqualmie area where the story is set.

Very fun for a while. There are some good characters and scenes. But it tailed off some at the end.

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Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Michael eventually found himself dealing poker in a dead-end casino in Lake Stevens, Washington. Two doctorates bookend this strange turn of events: the first in Psychology from Northwestern, and the second in English from University of Tennessee. Along the way, Michael spent a dozen years in Chicago, touring the country as a rave DJ. He currently resides in Asto ...more

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