Tuesday 13 September 2022




When Ania Kozak hits Vegas, she's only looking for a place to relax and lay low with her stolen cash and diamonds. But Sin City has other plans for "Annie." Cord Needham is a poker circuit champion with an eye for the ladies and a dark secret in his past. Casey Brunnell is a former baseball player fighting the cards and running up debts to a local mobster. When Annie decides to play a dangerous game with both of them, the stakes go through the roof. Everyone scrambles to beat the odds and get out of town with the money…and their lives.

Another Zafiro-Wilsky series collaboration that I enjoyed, though maybe a smidgeon less than the last one. Queen of Diamonds is the second proper novel in a series of three. Post series, they wrote a novella prequel, which I’ve also read. So, it’s my third go of four, with the finale to look forward to.

Ania Kozak is fleeing Chicago and has a choice. This way to Vegas, that way not to Vegas. She plumps for sin city naturally and a two-day stopover. Not her wisest move.

Professional poker, wannabee gamblers and high rollers, and a willy measuring competition between two dudes both seduced and stricken by the allure of our femme fatale. High stakes poker, diamonds, a cop girlfriend with attitude, confidence, luck, mobsters, loan sharks, debt, frighteners, threats, missing pinkies, heavies, our character’s history and the resurfacing of buried skeletons.

I enjoyed the combative nature of the book, between Cord and Casey. Both trying to best each other for big bucks, both thinking they are the light of Ania’s life. They both want to win the game and cement their future with the girl.

I think I was slightly unconvinced by the professional’s vulnerability to the undoubted charms of our hottie. I perhaps expected him to be a bit shrewder, a bit sharper in reading her. I guess I didn’t expect him to be played so easy. Similarly, Ania was perhaps a little bit reckless when arriving in town, which I couldn’t quite buy. When she arrived at a hotel she was trying to avoid the surveillance cameras initially, but before too long she had every head in the place turned which kind of went against a sensible low radar approach. That said when a girl wants to let her hair down, why shouldn’t she go wild.

The book was exciting though. There’s a thrill attached to having so much riding on the turn of a card – dreams fulfilled or dashed. I liked the bluffing, the attritional nature of the game, the signalling, the reading, the throwaway chat, the diminishing stack of chips, the increasing value of the pot and the subsequent ramping up of the tension.     

Maybe I’m being a bit picky overall. I still really enjoyed the book. Great excitement (not that I understand all the nuances of poker), a fast-paced narrative, enjoyable setting – not that I ever want to go there myself, and an intriguing dynamic between Cord and Casey, Ania and Cord, Casey and Ania. No prizes (or spoilers) for guessing who came out on top!

3.5 from 5

Harbinger (prequel) and Blood on Blood have been enjoyed before.

Read – (listened to) July, 2022

Published – 2013

Page count – 242 (6 hrs 46 mins)

Source – Audible purchase

Format - Audible


  1. You've hit on one of my pet peeves, Col. I much prefer characters to behave really authentically (in this case, not falling so easily for the lady's charms). Still, the Vegas setting sounds great, and the premise makes sense, too. It sounds like a solidly-paced story, and that adds to this sort of tale.

    1. Margot, maybe on another day I would have been less bothered by it, but I attributed a few more smarts to the character than he actually displayed. Similarly Ania went from low profile to high profile, which kind of seemed a bit off. Those niggles aside, I really liked the book.