The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne is a captivating novel penned by the British author, Lawrence Osborne. Published in 2014, the narrative is set against the backdrop of the gambling casinos of Macau and follows the life of an English con man who goes by the alias of a runaway Lord.
The protagonist, known as Doyle, is a corrupt English lawyer who has managed to evade prosecution by fleeing to the East. He spends his nights indulging in drinking and gambling, while his days are spent recovering from his nocturnal excesses. Haunted by his past, he takes refuge in a series of dimly lit hotels, watching his fortune fluctuate as the cards dictate his fate.
The novel is not just a tale of a man’s descent into addiction, but also a psychological thriller with elements of a ghost story. It explores the dark world of high-stakes gambling in Macau’s glitzy casinos and provides a glimpse into the insatiable and desolate nature of addiction. The narrative is elegantly crafted, drawing comparisons with the works of Graham Greene and Dostoievsky.
Osborne’s vivid descriptions bring to life the lurid environment within the casinos and the harsh yet delicate beauty of the nature that surrounds them. His words paint a picture of far-off places, making them appear before the reader’s eyes. The plot moves at a pace that is both frenetic and languorous, keeping readers on the edge of their seats.
What I Liked
The setting is interesting and unique. It’s an engaging and solid novel.
What I Did Not Like
The main character is pretty boring. He’s not likeable or super-interesting. I like Osborne’s other books more.