“Parlor Games” (Doubleday, $25.95) by Maryka Biaggio is a novel based on the true story of May Dugas, a beautiful turn-of-the-century con artist who was pursued by a persistent Pinkerton Agency detective.
In 1917, Dugas is on trial for extortion. As the trial unfolds, she tells her version of the events that led up to it. In 1887, at age 18, Dugas goes to Chicago in hopes of finding a good job to help support her family. Eventually she goes to work in a bordello, hoping to find a rich man who will take care of her.
She soon learns to use her womanly wiles to extract large sums of money from the men she meets, and even becomes engaged to a rich man, until someone alerts a Pinkerton agent about her fraudulent behavior.
Traveling around the world to all the favored places of the rich and famous, Dugas marries a wealthy Dutch baron. After a while, she becomes bored with him and his dull estate, and leaves him with the excuse that she's needed by her family.
The new baroness finds more doors are open to her, due to her title, and she travels the world finding new conquests. The Pinkerton detective stays on her trail and shows up in the most unlikely places.
The Pinkerton Agency really dubbed Dugas as “The Most Dangerous Woman.” Yet she is portrayed as a charming, rationalizing, unrepentant woman who would be delightful to know.
— Betty Lytle