Literature / Dead Man's Hand
Tor Books re-release cover spotlighting Yeoman (left) and Popinjay (right)

Dead Man's Hand is the seventh book in the Wild Cards series by George R.R. Martin. It was originally part of the book Ace in the Hole but was split for length reasons.

On waking on Monday morning from his regular nightmare, Jay Ackroyd's new assignment as Chrysalis' bodyguard gets off to a bad start when he discovers his employer's battered corpse at the Crystal Palace with an ace of spades placed conveniently on top - the calling card of the bow-and-arrow killer, Yeoman. Not trusting the nat police to put too much effort into finding the killer of a joker, Jay sets off to solve the case by himself.

Daniel Brennan, thinking he's escaped the violence for a quieter life in the country, sees the news of his ex-lover's murder on TV (and his implied role in it), and finds himself dragged back into his old life when he, too, chooses to pursue the matter himself and find the person responsible.

In the process of searching for the murderer, Jay bets the farm on finding the missing reporter, Digger Downs; gets sweaty with the ultimate femme fatale; briefly gains a Takisian sidekick; and comes face to face with the hideous Ti Malice. Brennan, meanwhile, takes a trip in the magic kingdom; hears Wyrm's horrible confession; finds unexpected help from the church; and uncovers the secret of Chrysalis' success.

Dead Man's Hand contains the following tropes:

  • The Ace: Popinjay shines in this book.
  • Battle Couple: Wraith and Yeoman.
  • Clear My Name: Yeoman has plans for this, but only for the murder of Chrysalis.
  • Dead Man's Hand: Alluded to in the title of the book, obviously. The murderer's calling card is literally the Ace, as well.
  • Good Versus Good: Yeoman and Popinjay have a notable confrontation.
  • Fetish: Chrysalis was apparently this to Yeoman and Popinjay, a fact utterly lost on her.
  • The Grotesque: The Oddity and the Mother, who is basically a Deepspawn from Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Killed Off for Real: Chrysalis
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Bludgeon has become this due to losing his reputation at the hands of Fatman. He's also got AIDS.
    • Fatman, of all people. He's actually the one who murdered Chrysalis under the influence of Ti Malice's kiss and the stress it induces.
  • More Than Mind Control: Fatman killed Chrysalis out of horror she'd try to assassinate Gregg Hartman.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Wyrm is able to clear himself of suspicion by summarizing an episode of the soap opera he was watching at the time of Chrysalis' murder.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Popinjay nicely destroys Yeoman's code of honor in a brutal rant which points out he's nothing but a mass murderer, no matter what Zen Samurai bull he's been telling himself. Yeoman is briefly at a loss to what to do.