Picks and Pans Review: The Game of Thirty

updated 08/29/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/29/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by William Kotzwinkle

As a boy in New York City's Hell's Kitchen, Jimmy McShane learned the art of lock-picking from Willy the Wire. A street-smart, big-hearted private investigator, McShane is in love with the New Age chiropractor Dr. Ann Henderson, who shares his office and helps him solve crimes, but resists his advances because of their "incompatible chakras."

When the beautiful Temple Rennseler hires McShane to find out who murdered her father, a rich antiquities dealer who has been killed with an injection of cobra venom, the trail leads from New York City's seedier neighborhoods to tony Westchester. McShane encounters art collectors, porn filmmakers, diamond merchants and Chinese hit men as his moves match those of the Game of Thirty, an ancient board game of the pharaohs, reputed to influence the course of human events.

Suspense builds as the mystery spins out to include smuggling, theft and pedophilia. Tough and sympathetic, McShane's character shines through all the plot turns. Add the exoticism of ancient Egypt, the righting of terrible wrongs and a gem of a wrap-up, and William Kotzwinkle (The Fan Man, E.T.) has another winner. (Houghton Mifflin, $21.95)

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