Five Card Stud

by Elizabeth Gunn

Sunday, November 18, 2001

Featured image for Five Card Stud

[these comments are taken from a mailing list discussion and contain spoilers]

[about the characters]

I don’t remember missing anyone from the previous books. I think the characters were definitely better drawn in this book. Trudy and Rosie were two who came more to life for me. I liked Bo in Par Four and liked him again here. There was definitely much less cardboard than I was expecting.

[about the plot]

I’m not sure which way to call the plot. In Par Four I thought the plots was silly (in the end) but quite exciting, in this book I thought the plot was far more realistic but it didn’t keep me as entertained. Is that better or worse? The ending worked better for me than the previous ones had.

[about the setting etc]

The setting was hugely better in this book. The snow and the cold made far more of an impression than the wishy washy averageness of Rutherford that I’d seen before. And whilst snow is probably easy for an author to paint scenes with I also felt more connected to the scenery of the overpass, the farmer’s fields, Jimmy’s labs, Jake and Trudy’s farmhouse etc than I had done in the other books.

The ending scenes where Maxine is found worked for me and left the book on an up note after the main plot was resolved.

[comparison’s to the previous books, overused devices etc.]

This book’s better than the first in the series and I’d give it about the same rating as the second but for different reasons. It’s stronger on characterisation and setting and probably about even with Par Four when it comes to the plot. It ended better and I didn’t feel disappointed but it wasn’t as fun to read as Par Four.

There were several spots in the book where I felt Gunn was just leaching information to the reader rather than telling a story. Trudy explaining fingerprints was one and Jake has several places where he just goes on about record keeping to excess. She’d done this in the other books, taken a couple of pages to explain techniques, and I’m now finding it really obvious when she does it. It’s not that I don’t like being informed, just that I find it badly worked into the narrative. When it got to the “how to play the lottery” explanation I neared “chucking book” point.


The book was decidedly average. I’ve got the next book so I’ll read it for the discussion of course, hopefully on time. I don’t expect I’ll read the book after that of my own volition though unless Six Pound Walleye works out much better and I wouldn’t recommend this series in general.