A young chess hustler goes on the supernatural adventure of a lifetime when he meets Mortimer Blackwell, a strange elderly man, who grants him an irresistible gift.
"Gamble" had immediate appeal because the story contains two disparate elements--chess and the supernatural—and combines them to make for an unusual story. Indie author Derek Odom creates an interesting tale of suspense and intrigue that kept me turning the pages just to see what would happen next.
The story's hero, Sam, hustles chess along California's Santa Monica boardwalk, eking out a modest living, but never really living up to his potential. One day Sam meets an older gentleman, Mortimer Blackwell, who offers Sam the gift of telepathy—the ability to read minds—but with a price tag attached.
The story follows Sam to Las Vegas where he learns to play poker, using his unique abilities to accumulate a fortune at high-stakes poker. Along the way, Sam meets a pretty redhead, Katie, the only person in the city that Sam cannot read. Naturally, the young couple falls in love, but Katie has secrets of her own.
Derek keeps the plot moving with steadily building tension toward an epic battle between two ancient forces at the story's climax. Although chess play is described in narrow detail, the technical aspects of the game are skimmed over, and so do not bog down the story. Sam and Katie's relationship is sweet with closed door bedroom scenes, and a satisfying portrayal of young love.
As a whole, I thoroughly enjoyed "Gamble" from start to finish. Derek does such a great job of creating suspense and building toward the tense climax admirably well over the course of approximately eleven thousand words. I will admit—without giving away any spoilers—I had hoped for a more sinister finish to this intriguing tale. Still, the conclusion wraps up the story nicely and provides a satisfactory ending.
"Gamble" is definitely recommended reading for fans of suspenseful short stories.
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