Final tableHis first novel is a captivating read and an exciting journey with strong payoff.
Since the first word in Chapter One, we’re not quite sure what to make of Kyler Dawson, our emotionally wrecked protagonist. The life of a professional poker player is full of chaos, mostly due to his flaws and failures. He’s not even on the right side of the story’s various moral and ethical conflicts. However, oddly enough, we find ourselves in his corner, rooting for it.
Maggie Raster couldn’t be more different from Kyle than day and night. However, the Washington, DC-based political/media advisor, with her fragility and deep vulnerabilities, somehow becomes Kyle’s roadmap and beacon of stability, even though she is teetering on a rocky foundation. Unfazed by her despair, she is a beacon in a sea of colorless mist. However, the embers of conscience have their effect.
The amalgamation of these two very different, truly polar opposites, initially with absolutely no understanding of each other or what they do for a living in the disparate worlds of high-stakes gambling and international politics, is brilliantly put together by writer Shore, who drives something real and clear. . International experience in both arenas. Shore, a former New York attorney general and assistant professor at Fordham University, appears to be writing about what he knows best. On every page, we deal not only with real-life narrative, but with insights into the reasons why people do what they do and act the way they do. Shore, who has spent most of his career exposing sexual crimes and has appeared several times in national media including CNNFox, Good Morning America, and Law & Crime Network are also a part-time committed poker player. He even used various table experiences, including playing in World Series of Poker events, in his story.
Although Final Table appears to be a Booker book, it is more like a people’s story. Without naming any real poker players or identifying public figures, or even using the names of the actual countries in which the events take place, Schorr’s clever descriptions and attention to detail lead to some speculation regarding his inspirations. For example, we get acquainted with a bankrupt poker champion who blew his entire winnings – 8.8 million dollars. We are faced with the moral dilemma of pure self-interest versus noble virtues. We are forced to think about our own decisions as to what we will do and how we will act under the same circumstances as these fictional characters. Mostly, there are no black and white answers – just vague gray pitfalls.
The book’s best moments are immersed in these struggles and mixed feelings, both external and internal. Kyle, the now-broken former World Series of Poker Champion, is given the chance to compete in a $20 million free spin. Money prize is not just a financial blessing, it is a personal salvation. The problem is that the poker tournament will take place in a fictitious country called “The Kingdom”, presumably a cross between North Korea and Saudi Arabia, only with a much worse human rights record (imagine that).
Shore, who has spent real time teaching in China and surfing in similar diplomatic waters, knows this area well. Thus, the stage is set for the most interesting “end table”. But as with all wars, this fight is always won before the first shot is fired, or in poker parlance, the first card is dealt. The journey into this final combination of fates makes the story. The reward isn’t the final table, it’s the journey to get there.
The other characters and subplots are equally compelling. Without giving up any of the shady details, what we observe through these imperfect characters is the very essence of our souls and the discovery of what makes us all move.
Final Table is often an intense read in a graphical language without making it seem gratuitous. Beautifully crafted into short chapters, winding through the lives of semi-fictional people and players we know will inevitably end up swaying each other, this makes for a fast-paced action thriller that neither feels rushed nor lacks in detail.
Most readers of this intriguing novel will feel the sharing was worth it. It’s as good as the money-backed finish.
this is Book review originally appeared on NolanDalla.com.