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  Mystery Review   


The Biloxi Gambler
by Wilma Knox
Averrie-Robbins Publishing, 2001
Trade paper, $12.95 (266 pages)
ISBN: 0-9703863-1-1

My wife and I were on the Mississippi Gulf coast several years ago, taking a side trip there to look around, more from curiosity than anything else. 

We saw towering casinos, floating upon the Gulf waters along the shoreline, fancy restaurants, tourist attractions and, facing the ocean-front, Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ retirement home and estate, Beauvoir (French for "beautiful view.")

So, when I found out about Dr. Wilma Knox, a retired psychologist who writes of the area, I was intrigued, and found a book by her to read. 

The first chapter of The Biloxi Gambler, I admit, fell upon me like a ton of bricks.  At a gathering, names of characters (and dogs) with cites of regional locations came at me like bursts from a machine-gun.  I was forced to pay close attention and not pull a ‘lazy-eye’ inspection of a new reading, as I would with so many books, which slowly trot out characters or locations and take ten chapters to squeeze out every iota of information from them before they move on.   

No, this was a more Southerly approach to writing, and, I believe, a more calculated one.  (After all the author is a retired psychologist—no?)

A party and a celebration—that is what attracts the Gulf Coast crowd and keeps their attention.  Some scholars say that Southerners are so busy living that they don’t have time to philosophize about weighty matters.  

I found Dr. Knox’s novel to be in that category.  It moves…from person to person, from place to place, from situation to situation, like a party favor, a drink, or food being passed around at a celebration.  So, what’s the book about?  A wealthy casino owner is murdered on the eve of his intended marriage to a beautiful woman of the Biloxi area.  Associates from his place of work and friends are devastated by the news of such a prominent man, killed in the midst of celebratory affairs. 

His South American brother-in-law from Columbia arrives on the scene, and then things become international in scope, with drug-trafficking, kidnapping lords in the mix as well.  Who committed the murder of the casino owner and to what end?  As the stage becomes larger, the characters examined and the Biloxi scene opens up to inspection—with its flourishes of events and colorful people, the whole becomes heady, almost giddy in its acceleration of plot and twists of events. 

The Biloxi Gambler, in my opinion, is a good example of why the best regional books are written by regional writers.


Robert L. Hall
Southern Scribe Reviews


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