Playing Games


By Lawrence Block

cover image of Playing Games

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Whether it's child's play or for the highest stakes, whether we stick to the rules or cheat, we all play games — for fun, for thrills, for love or money, to prove we're the best or make an opponent knuckle under. And the games we play, with cards or dice or nothing but our wits, reveal something deeply personal about the players.

In this powerful new anthology, Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Lawrence Block has assembled an all-star team for the ultimate game night. Sit down at the checkerboard with S.A. Cosby, assemble jigsaw puzzles with David Morrell, or play marbles for the fate of the world with Joe R. Lansdale. In Jeffery Deaver's hands, an innocent game of Candyland takes twists the Parker Brothers could never have imagined. Science-fiction grandmaster Robert Silverberg uncovers painful truths about destiny while betting on the turtle races in a Caribbean resort. And Lawrence Block himself out-Hitchcocks Hitchcock with his classic story of murder victims swapped by strangers on a handball court.

From hide-and-seek to Russian roulette, from mahjong to Mouse Trap, it's a game lover's dream — but beware: your turn is coming, and while winning isn't everything, sometimes losing can be deadly...

And here's Publishers Weekly's starred review:

"One of the most impressive of the 17 crime stories involving games in this stellar anthology from MWA Grand Master Block (In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper) is Block's own "Strangers on a Handball Court." It riffs on Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train, as the title suggests, and provides a wholly fair plot with a gut-wrenching surprise. Even knowing that multiple twists are coming doesn't negate their impact in Jeffery Deaver's devious "The Babysitter," which opens with a classic trope: the innocent everyperson who stumbles on a deadly secret. When the charges of 17-year-old Kelli Lambert get bored playing Candy Land, Kelli's search for another board game leads her into peril after the parents of the kids she's watching suspect she's spotted their secret plans to torch a casino so they can establish their own casino. David Morrell shines with the subtle and creepy "The Puzzle Master," in which a couple become addicted to jigsaw puzzles by a particular artist, only to find potentially ominous clues linking disparate bucolic scenes. The wide range of stories and games in them begs for a sequel."

Playing Games