The Pequod Review:
Las Vegas is a natural setting for John D. MacDonald’s tales of corruption, and he uses it to strong effect in The Only Girl in the Game, a character-driven crime novel involving casinos and the mob. MacDonald also includes a surprising amount of intelligent detail on American business practices and economics more generally, as the conflicting incentives of various in-house casino departments come into full view.
Once again, some of the greatest pleasures of MacDonald’s prose lie in his pitch-perfect descriptions of everyday environments. Here he describes the casino floor:
Casino play was exceptionally heavy. All tables were in operation, and the customers stood two and three deep around the craps and roulette. The murmuring crowd noises blended with the chanting of the casino staff, the continuous roar of the slots, the music from the Afrique Bar and the Little Room, and the muffled burst of applause from the Safari Room where the dinner show was coming to an end. As he worked his way through the throng, Hugh was once again aware at how truly joyless these casino crowds really were.
When play was this heavy there was a special electric tension in the air, but there was something dingy about it. There was laughter, but no mirth. This was the raw sweaty edge where luck and money meet in organized torment. Money is equal to survival. So it is as mirthless as some barbaric arena where slaves are matched against beasts. People in casinos ignore each other. It is a place where each man is intensely and desperately alone.