Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Author: Jane Stanton Hitchcock
Release: April 2nd 2019
Warnings: Sexual abuse/control, financial control, animal death
I received a copy of Bluff through BookishFirst in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Bluff has got to be one of the most unique combinations I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s a thriller heavily influenced by poker and card games. That may sound a bit odd, but it actually worked really well.
The novel follows the events surrounding Maud Warner, AKA Mad Maud, and all of the chaos she creates. To be fair, she had reasons to do everything she did. Like a true thriller novel, Maud is a woman who is out for revenge, but naturally there’s more going on here than meets the eye.
Warnings: Like many thrillers, this novel touches upon a lot of sensitive subjects. There’s conning, murder, emotional/physical/financial control and abuse, the whole gambit. There are some moments that talk about abuse, and those may be the hardest moments for some. There is also an animal death that occurs. You can see the buildup to it from a mile away, so it’s not a surprise when it does actually happen. It’s still upsetting though, so consider yourself warned.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Bluff. It was fascinating, fast-paced, and truly unique. I loved the poker elements that were woven into the main plot itself. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The plot itself was interesting and strong enough to catch my attention and then hold it.
Bluff lived up to its name in many respects; it was thematic and dramatic all in one, and it did hint towards the truth hidden within the pages. Even with that title though, I wasn’t quite ready for all of the hidden angles inside.
The novel kept making comparisons between what was happening and elements of poker games. It was interesting, unique, and best of all, it actually added to the context of what was actually happening.
These unusual twists took the novel from being a thriller that resembled many others out there, to being something truly different. I respect and appreciate what was done here, and I can’t wait to see if more novels will come out like this from Jane Stanton Hitchcock.
It probably took me about two chapters to truly get into the novel – and that’s mostly because they started in the thick of things. I was immediately curious, but not yet actually invested in any of the characters. Once I had a better idea of who was involved, that’s when I began to care about what was going to happen next.
Maud was an interesting character on the whole. She’s clearly intended to be the main perspective, even though we do get to see through the eyes of several other characters as well. I think this was done to help occlude the truth of what Maud had done and was doing (and no, I’m not going to give that bit away).
I’m not sure I could go so far as to say I was emotionally invested in Maud’s character. I was rooting for her to win, surely, but there were other characters that I felt more strongly about (both the good and the bad, in this case).
There was a lot of complexity to this plot – a lot of twists and turns and surprise revelations about the characters. Most of the emotionally compelling reveals were thrown at us earlier in the novel, but that was a good play, because it forced us to become invested relatively early.
Lately it feels like a lot of the thrillers I’ve been reading have had lackluster endings. You know, the endings that just don’t hold up to the intrigue in the rest of the book. That was not the case for Bluff. I felt like it was a solid ending, it made sense, it had impact, everything. It was actually really refreshing, now that I think about it!
This was my first novel by Jane Stanton Hitchcock, but clearly I’m going to have to look into the rest of her novels. I do hope she continues this sort of blending of themes in her next few books though, as it really works.