Read Recently — January 2015 — Just because you can bet doesn’t make it a casino

Casino Infernale: a secret histories novel by Simon R. Green

Eddie Drood has left his family, betrayed perhaps one time too many. He has joined his parents and his grandfather, all of whom he was assured were dead, in working for the Department of the Uncanny, who surely will not betray him and about whose workings we will surely learn much in this novel.

Molly Metcalf goes with him and their first mission for the Department involves infiltrating the New White Horse Faction, a radical supernatural terrorist/freedom fighter (depending on who you ask) group meeting on Trammell island, a place north of Scotland in the middle of the North Sea, inside a supernatural null zone meaning it cannot be scryed or spied on by any means. The Regent of Shadows, Eddie’s grandfather, wants the group monitored, and if need be dealt with. Eddie and Molly are the perfect people to infiltrate it, because Molly’s parents were in the old White Horse Faction, before they were killed by the Droods . . . right here on Trammell island.

We quickly learn that the new White Horse faction is devoted to non-violent means, though the old Faction certainly wasn’t. And courtesy of a survivor of that group (another survivor; Molly was also there at the end, though she is surprised to realize that she doesn’t remember anything useful about it) we learn what the Faction did to get themselves marked for death: they summoned an ancient god back into the world. And this got them killed by the Regent of Shadows himself, working on behalf of the Droods. Is that ancient god coming after the new Faction? And can Eddie and Molly stop it before it gets them?

Of course they can. This is only the first chapter.

Eddie and Molly head back to DoU HQ, intending to have words with the Regent about the whole slaughtering Molly’s parents thing, but their trip is diverted to the Drood house by the Armourer, the only member of his family that Eddie is probably willing to talk to right now. He needs them to help him run a Summit meeting between the various agencies and factions of the supernatural world, due to a possible war between, well, pretty much everyone else over the legacy of Crow Lee, the most evil man in the world, who Eddie and Molly killed a while ago (I don’t remember this at all. I’ll have to re-read the entire series at some point, I guess). What the legacy is, no one knows, but it can’t be anything good. In order to calm things down, the Droods propose to sort of defund everybody by weakening the organization that funds them: the Shadow Bank. This will be done by breaking the bank at Casino Infernale, a sort of wandering , annual betting extravaganza that is funded and run by the Shadow Bank. This has never been done before, but Eddie and Molly have never tried to do it before. So it’s fair to say that this time will be different.

The Casino watches for the Droods, because of one of those earlier attempts to break the bank, so Eddie will have to go in as his alter-ego, Shaman Bond. And he has to be stripped of his torc, because the Casino can detect those. So he has only his wits, whatever gadgets he can conceal in his portable dimensional pocket, and whatever magic Molly can pull off despite the magical null zones liberally sprinkled throughout the casino. Oh, and at the higher levels, the Casino doesn’t play for money. It plays for souls.

The games at the Casino are . . . creative. but mostly not very casino-like. At the lowest level, Eddie plays Russian Roulette and does some pit fighting. Molly plays roulette (last actual casino game we see until the final round) for years on/off your life. The pit fighting leaves Eddie so disgusted with the crowd that he determines not to kill anyone else he doesn’t have to (could one of Green’s heroes be growing up?).

Will Eddie and Molly make it to the top ranks of the games? Will they break the bank? Who will betray them on this mission? Will Simon Green realize that Bruin Bear and the Sea Goat just aren’t very interesting to anyone other than him?

This is, in many ways, typical Green. Violent and occasionally stupid, but often clever and sometimes surprising. Cameos from characters from Green’s other series’ in this one include the above-mentioned bear and goat, Dead Boy from the Nightside (the new Walker is on his honeymoon), and J. C. Chance from the Carnacki institute.

Recommendation: guarded. You shouldn’t start reading Green here, but if you’ve read the rest of the series, recommended.

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