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16 April 2013

James Swain: Wild Card (Tony Valentine series)

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In "Wild Card" James Swain takes up back to Tony Valentine's early days as a cop in Atlantic City. I am always suspicious of the quality of prequels written later on in popular series. This is certainly not the case with this one as we learn a lot about how Valentine became the top anti-fraud cop in Atlantic City when gambling there was in its infancy. We also see something of his late wife Lois and the early teenage years of his wild son Gerry (who is already keeping a book at high school).

Tony has been wounded in a big homicide shootout and is not at all happy when his boss puts him on "light duties" as head of the Casino Investigations Division in Resorts Casino, the only one in AC at the time. Tony doesn't understand then that he has the skills, and almost photographic memory to detect gambling scams that others would miss.

Resorts is run by the local mafia which is skimming millions a year in a scam that no-one can identify. The casino is a magnet for cheaters throughout the country and Swain assures us that all of the scams in the book were used by hustlers at the time.

While being close to the mafia is dangerous there are other dangers in town with a serial killer who picks up hookers in the casino and imprisons them, starving them to death. The danger is ever present as the killer has known Tony in his early days.

I have become a bit of a Tony Valentine addict and find this series very entertaining. I strongly recommend this one because it gives a great insight into the start Valentine's fascinating career and an interesting history of the early days of gambling and the mob in AC.


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