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29 March 2013

James Swain: Grift Sense

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"Grift Sense" is the first in the very entertaining series by James Swain featuring Tony Valentine, a retired cop from New Jersey whose beat covered the casinos in Atlantic City. In retirement Valentine provides valuable advice to casinos throughout the world on identifying cheaters.

Valentine is asked by Nick Nicocropolis, a sleazy but reasonably honest owner of The Acropolis, a run-down casino in Las Vegas, to work out how he is losing money outside the odds to one of his blackjack customers. Nicocropolis is an amazing larger-than-life character with a libido higher than his IQ who keeps a folio of nude photos of each of his many conquests. To enhance the entry to his casino Nick commissioned a famous sculptor to carve toga-clad statues of his bevy of ex-wives - two beauty queens, two showgirls, a stripper, and a retired hooker. At night, to attract gamblers, a kitsch fountain sprays coloured water in titivating bursts onto the statues.

Tony concludes that the scam involves an unknown facial connection between the dealer and the gambler who are apparently unknown to one another. He is stunned when he concludes that the only person capable of this scam is someone who was killed a few years ago. Step by step Valentine tracks down one of the biggest potential gambling frauds in the history of Las Vegas.  The size and target of the scam eludes you till the very end.

James Swain is a natural story-teller who keeps you in suspense and guessing to the very last page. I am really enjoying and recommend the Tony Valentine series, especially for its insight into fascinating and ingenious gambling scams and Valentine's skills in detecting scams and fraud that are missed by even the most experienced casino security operators and gambling regulators.

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