Mystery, Women

Play the Fool by Lina Chern


A cynical tarot card reader seeks to uncover the truth about her friend’s mysterious death in this delightfully clever whodunit, “a delicious blend of suspense and madcap humor” (Library Journal, starred review).

For Katie True, a keen gut and quick wit are just tools of the trade. After a failed attempt at adulting in Chicago, she’s back in the suburbs living a bit too close to her overbearing parents, jumping from one dead-end job to the next, and flipping through her tarot deck for guidance. Then along comes Marley.

Mysterious, worldly, and comfortable in her own skin, Marley takes a job at the mall where Katie peddles Russian tchotchkes. The two just get each other. Marley doesn’t try to fix Katie’s life or pretend to be someone she’s not, and Katie thinks that with Marley’s friendship, she just might make it through this rough patch after all. Until the day when Katie, having been encouraged by Marley to practice soothsaying, reads the cards for someone who stumbles into her shop. But when she sneaks a glance at his phone, she finds more than intel to improve her clairvoyance. She finds a photo. Of Marley. With a gunshot wound to the head.

The bottom falls out of Katie’s world. Her best friend is dead? Who killed her? She quickly realizes there are some things her tarot cards can’t foresee, and she must put her razor-sharp instincts to the ultimate test. But Katie’s recklessness lands her in the crossfire of a threat she never saw coming. Now she must use her street smarts and her inner Strength card to solve Marley’s murder—or risk losing everything.

My Thoughts

This was a refreshing change from the vintage mysteries I’ve been reading. I adored the main character, Katie True, who is written with such realness that I finished the book feeling like I know her. Katie isn’t good at everything, in fact she’s kind of a fuck-up, and she’s wasting her life away working in a dismal little mall shop when the story begins. One thing that Katie IS is a true friend. She doesn’t have many, so she values the ones she’s got. That leads her smack into the middle of a murder mystery and the life of her friend Marley. The story escalates from there as Katie, who is a skilled tarot-reader, truly learns that things are not always how they appear.

Katie is a relatable character who will appeal to teens and adults who like their mysteries with a little extra “mystery.” I’m hoping there will be other Katie True books in the future.

Published By: Random House Publishing; Bantam, Ballantine
Publication Date: March 28, 2023
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy