This is the fifth book of the Kitty Norville series (one more book and I'll be caught up!) I've read and reviewed the first four books here:
Book 1: Kitty and the Midnight Hour
Book 2: Kitty Goes to Washington
Book 3: Kitty Takes a Holiday
Book 4: Kitty and the Silver Bullet
The basic idea for those who haven't read my earlier reviews is that the series centers on a werewolf with a talk radio show who introduces the world to the supernatural. I'd recommend reading this series in order to understand what's going on and follow the growth of the characters.
Carrie Vaughn seems to have two main settings for these books: either In Denver (books 1 and 4), or Not In Denver (books 2 and 3). In Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand – it's a bit of both, but mostly it's Not In Denver. This time, Kitty travels to Las Vegas, which I guess is why the title is what it is (according to wikipedia, it's the name of a poker hand rumored to be held by Wild Bill Hickok at the time of his death).
*** Spoilers for earlier books from this point on ***
At the start of this book, things are going pretty well for Kitty. She's working hard at her job with The Midnight Hour, living in Denver, able to see her family and enjoying time with her mate, Ben. The pack is also doing fine – Rick calls it the "honeymoon period" because as the new alpha pair, Ben and Kitty are encountering no major grumblings about their leadership.
At the end of Kitty and the Silver Bullet Kitty and Ben seem to be mated as wolves, and their human sides decide to make it official and get married. Of course, being the people Kitty and Ben are, after stressing over the planning for a traditional wedding (I can relate here), they both agree that a wedding in Vegas would be perfect for them. Of course, Kitty's plans to just elope don't happen, because soon her parents are coming and the radio station wants Kitty to do a 2 hour televised show the same weekend.
This book had a slow first half as all the players in Vegas are introduced. Kitty plans out her television show and so much of the book has her doing footwork to meet possible supernatural guests for her show. The back cover blurb describes them so I'll mention who some of them are: "an old-school magician [who] might be wielding the real thing", some of the Vegas "vampire community", and "the irresistible star of a suspicious animal act". Then of course there is the gun show going on in the same hotel Kitty and Ben are staying in, which brings in an element who aren't really werewolf lovers.
My thoughts: I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop in this book, but no action really seemed to be happening for the first 150 pages except me feeling paranoid as the reader that "Ok this person is hiding something and wants to do something to Kitty. Or maybe that person. Or that one!" - Kitty gets herself into trouble a lot. Not that she's stupid, but her very nosy nature that comes along with asking questions for a living doesn't help. When the action finally does arrive though, I can't blame her for it – it's more the fault of her being a werewolf than Kitty's curiosity.
The relationship in this book between Kitty and Ben feels more secure to me, finally. Again, I'm paranoid (maybe it was TJ's death in book 1 that makes me so), but I hope they stay together because I really like Ben. They act like a real couple who have been together long enough to know each other enough to be partners – compromising works here. I liked that I could recognize guys I know in real life in Ben. I do still think that in wolf terms though, Kitty is more alpha, but maybe because Ben lets her be, since she's got more experience being a werewolf than him. Hmm.
Overall: This book felt more like a transition book than the previous four. Although there is an ending to what happened in Vegas – it does not stay in Vegas (ha ha, sorry, but look at the next books back cover blurb, I'm not the only one saying it). It looks like things end in a small cliffhanger and we'll have to see what happens next in Kitty Raises Hell. Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand was released February, and Kitty Raises Hell a month later in March, so that works out well. Several interesting new characters are introduced and Kitty and Ben's relationship moves forward, but there was a lot of set up in the first half before the action occurred. Also, we don't really hear everything that happens to Ben in this book because it's written from Kitty's POV, which had me gnashing my teeth (I hope that information shows up in the next book too).