The Interspecies Poker Tournament by Claire Buss

Chief Thief-Catcher Ned Spinks, along with his rag-tag band of mostly-supernatural fellow Thief-Catchers, have been tasked by the fey community with catching the most dangerous thief of all: a stealer of life.

The murderer has been targeting communities of supernatural creatures one by one, from the brownies to the dryads to the mer folk, and each victim has been killed in the most insulting way possible for their race. The murdered gingerbread man was dunked in milk. The naiad (water nymph) was left on dry land. And the deceased brownie, a race that’s fond of cake and notoriously intolerant of vegetables, was left in a salad bowl. Curiously, the only thing the survivors can seem to agree on is the existence of a suspicious mustache.

This is the setup for one of the most hilarious fantasy mysteries I’ve read in a very long time.

While The Interspecies Poker Tournament has its grim moments, it’s tame enough (and fast paced enough) for kids to enjoy. The author’s writing style is smooth and easy to follow, and the characters’ accents (particularly that of Jenni, Ned’s assistant and the wayward princess of the fey,) are a delight to read.

There are plenty of fascinating details built into this story, giving it an edge of realism. These are not Disney-esque fairytale creatures. (The carnivorous, predatory mer folk are the best take on these enchanting mythical creatures I’ve ever encountered.)

If I had to voice any criticism of Poker Tournament, it would be that it felt like it ended too soon. I would have liked more depth to the mystery and a longer build-up to the discovery of the murderer’s identity and their eventual capture– but I think that’s more of a result of the kind of crime fiction I usually read than a reflection on this story.

This is an excellent read, especially for younger readers or those who prefer their fantasy mysteries less grim and gritty. The Interspecies Poker Tournament gets an enthusiastic recommendation from me.

If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, The Interspecies Poker Tournament is available from Amazon in ebook and paperback. You can see what else author Claire Buss has in the works here, and be sure to check out her blog over at But I Don’t Like Salad.

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