It's difficult to stop reading Brian Rouff's debut novel, Dice Angel. Rouff creates characters with intense depth - and not just with his main characters. The story is loaded with humor, wit and irony, a combination of short chapters and engaging dialogue that keeps the reader turning pages. Dice Angel starts out strong, gets stronger toward the middle and, as luck would have it, is complete with a powerful and unexpected ending.
Jimmy Delany grew up working in his father's bar in Las Vegas. When his father dies, Jimmy inherits the establishment. Recovering from a gambling problem that cost him his marriage, for the last few years he has managed to stay away from the casinos. Aside from being divorced, and his ex-wife and young daughter living out of state, Jimmy thinks he's got it good - until the police call to inform him there's been a break-in at the bar.
The crooks hit the tabletop slot machines, getting away with more than twelve grand. The police are sure it was an inside job, but Jimmy refuses to allow them to interrogate his employees. To make matters worse, the bar is bouncing checks - there is no money left in the bank accounts. Things add up quickly when his ex-sister-in-law, Sarah, calls to say that her husband is missing. Her husband, Owen, was Jimmy's accountant. Jimmy does not need a degree in criminal justice to suspect that Owen has embezzled everything from the bar and is on the run.
When the IRS comes a-knockin', Jimmy learns that Owen has not been paying the bar's taxes. If Jimmy doesn't come up with the money to pay back to the government in two weeks, the bar will be taken away from him.
It's a homeless man who offers up a possible solution when he hands over a business card that reads "Dice Angel." It sounds like a scam; gambling away the little he has left to save the bar doesn't seem plausible, with or without someone claiming to have power over the roll of the dice. But when you're desperate, there may not be many options available.
Dice Angel's pacing is perfect. Immediately drawn into Jimmy's world and attached to his characters, my attention did not waiver once. However, it is the surprise twists at the end that make the book a special read. Brian Rouff is an author I hope to see more from in the future.