Fresh Meat: Lucky Bastard by Deborah Coonts

Lucky Bastard by Deborah CoontsLucky Bastard by Deborah Coonts is the fourth in the Lucky O’Toole humorous traditional mystery series (available May 14, 2013).

If you’re looking for humor, glitz, and big money, you’ll truly enjoy the Lucky O’Toole Las Vegas series from Deborah Coonts. Lucky Bastard is the fourth book in a series that is funny, sexy, and features a damn good amateur sleuth. It’s been called Sex and the City meets Elmore Leonard. Not a bad description.

There’s no waiting for the action with Lucky Bastard, it opens with a grisly murder scene. A young woman has been left sprawled across the hood of a red Ferrari in the dealership inside Babylon, a top casino-resort in Las Vegas. Perhaps the saddest part of the display is that she was murdered with a stiletto attached to a beautiful red Jimmy Choo.

Coonts takes readers on a romp through Choos, chips, and challenges with as many puns and clichés as Vegas has light bulbs. Lucky’s personal life is a bit chaotic too. Her mother and father have reconnected so well that her mother’s now pregnant. Her true love Teddie left her in a devastated mess. Now that she’s slowly coming back from that, he’s begging for forgiveness and an open door back into her life. However, a certain French chef has been knocking at that door, and Lucky is attracted to more than his gourmet hamburgers.

And this is just the beginning.

Coonts has a wonderful array of characters in this series, from the young homicide detective who manages the police procedures to her capable assistant whose boyfriend is an ace private detective. Lucky’s father is the keeper of Vegas history and the way it used to be while he keeps his feet planted in the 21st century with his state-of-the-art casino and hotel. Like most places in Vegas it’s a world unto itself with the fake scenery and coziness you appreciate when gambling.

Coonts also impressed me with her creative character descriptions. I just had to share this one:

Stretched and tanned, peroxided and waxed, sheathed in fringed leather and cowboy boots, and painted in primary colors, Miss Becky-Sue looked like Dale Evans on crack. Texas trashy on the outside, tempered steel on the inside, she was a barracuda with a bimbo fetish. If she had a heart, I hadn’t seen a hint of it.

With that kind of description you have no trouble envisioning this character. You know her likes and dislikes, her quirks, and her faults in three simple sentences.

Lucky O’Toole is a great heroine and I like her a lot. She’s a hard-edged woman with soft insides and will do whatever it takes to reach her goals. She loves good food and doesn’t hesitate to enjoy it. She’s tall, assertive, and gets the job done while wearing terrific shoes. My kind of woman.

This is one of my favorite scenes:

As I eased through the small, gated entrance, raised voices captured my attention. One of the voices seemed a bit garbled, yet while the words weren’t sharp, the anger came through loud and clear.

The other voice, low and demeaning, I recognized instantly. It belonged to our longtime Poker Room manger, Marvin J. Johnstone—a pain in the ass who kept his job simply because the casino manager was too scared to fire him. I would have been delighted to can his ass, but from my perch on the corporate ladder, such a task was beneath my pay-grade.

Marvin, who preferred to be addressed as “Marvin J.,” but who was mostly not so fondly referred to as “the Stoneman,” had attached himself to the Big Boss, our fearless leader, back before the earth was cool. As the Big Boss moved from property to property, clawing his way up the food chain, so too did Marvin. But Marvin, a parasite living off the host, reached his high-water mark at middle management, where he had been abusing the staff ever since.

He was a small man, nattily attired in black tie. With sallow skin, a long, pinched face, and closely set, dark eyes, he reminded me of a ferret— well, a ferret with a really bad comb-over.

The Stoneman and a young man in blue jeans sporting a head of shaggy dark hair, a soul patch under his lower lip, and an angry stare, faced off behind the lone open chair at the high-stakes table.

“Forgive me, sir,” the Stoneman said, not looking the least bit sorry, “you may not play at this table.”

Arms moving animatedly, the young man opened his mouth and spoke, but the words sounded as if they’d been spoken under water.

Red faced with a sheen of perspiration, the Stoneman raised an eyebrow as he ran a finger under his collar, tugging as if it were too tight. He crossed his arms, a look of exaggerated patience tinged with a hint of disdain settling over his features. Clearly, Marvin considered dealing with the young man an act of kindness worthy of canonization.

With his patience obviously held by a thin tether, the young man whirled to a man standing behind him and began signing rapidly. I never knew anger could infuse silent, signed words. When the young man was done, he whirled back to the Stoneman as his friend interpreted for him.

“Mr. Johnstone, my friend here has all the prerequisites with this hotel to participate in this game. I can only assume that you are denying him the open chair because he is deaf.”

“He doesn’t have the star power to play at the premier table. I mean, who wants to watch some . . . handicapped kid play?”

My anger instantly redlined. My eyes closed to slits as I advanced on our poker room manager. “Is there a problem?”

The Stoneman started to bite off a reply, but when he saw me, his eyes widened and he clamped his mouth shut. Wise man. I had him by about six inches, thirty pounds, seventy IQ points, and multiple rungs on the corporate ladder.

The young man’s interpreter needlessly explained the situation.

The Stoneman, flying in the face of every corporate policy I was aware of, and I knew them all—I’d written the book—was using his own biases to deny a legitimate player, fully vetted and fully funded, a place in the primo game.

Because the kid was deaf.

And in doing so, he not only exposed the hotel to legal ramifications, he offended me on every level.

I turned to the Stoneman, pulled myself to my full height, conjured Donald Trump, and said simply, “You’re fired.”

Normally, firing people gave me hives. This was not one of those times.

The room fell silent. The games stopped.

Marvin J.’s already red face flushed crimson as he breathed heavily, putting a song in my heart. Hey, shallow is my middle name. I take my jollies where I find them—a character flaw I’ve learned to embrace.

Defensively, the young poker player took a step back, giving us space.

“You can’t fire me,” the Stoneman hissed. Nervously, he wet his lips with his tongue. I half expected it to be forked.

“I just did. You’ve been begging for it for years and tonight you happened to hit me when I am hardwired to the pissed-off position.”

And the planets had aligned to make me the right person, in the right place, at the right time. How I love synchronicity. But I didn’t say that part. Holding his gaze with mine, I flipped open my phone and pushed talk. “Security, please send a team to the Poker Room. Mr. Johnstone has been fired and I wish you to escort him off the premises.”

“You are a god among mortals,” Jerry said with an awe-filled chuckle. “Once the staff gets wind of this, you could be elected emperor.”

“A thankless job. More work, less pay, and generally terminated with a beheading.”

“Giving credence to the adage that no good deed goes unpunished.”

“Perfect, I just love being the proof to a cliché.” Actually, cliché whore that I am, that did have a sort of perverted appeal, but I’d never admit to it.

As vice-president of customer relations, Lucky is called when anything happens in the massive hotel owned by her father. She’s in for a series of sleepless nights, as getting details on who the woman was and what happened to her leads Lucky on a merry chase among the visiting dignitaries of the World Series of Poker.

Be prepared to laugh—a lot. And don’t bet on who the murderer is. I think you’ll be surprised. I know I was.

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See more coverage of new releases in our Fresh Meat series.

Leigh Neely is a former newspaper and magazine editor. She currently does freelance work, blogs at, and She is one-half of the writing duo, Neely Powell, who have a book coming out this summer. They recently sold a trilogy to Harlequin Series Digital First.

Read all posts by Leigh Neely for Criminal Element.


  1. Allison Brennan

    Love the Lucky series! Thanks to Maryelizabeth at Mysterious Galaxy for turning me onto Deborah Coonts, who then became a good friend!

  2. Leigh

    She’s a terrific writer and the books are very entertaining.

  3. Terrie Farley Moran

    How did I miss this series? It sounds very entertaining!

  4. Carmen Pinzon

    I got hooked on this series from the beginning. How did I miss that this was coming out this week? Off to order my copy now.

  5. Marci

    I am so looking forward to this & to the fact that Deborah Coonts is gonna be in NC in June. So much fun…..

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