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Grift Sense (Tony Valentine)


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About the Author

James Swain, a gambling expert, is the author of Grift Sense, Funny Money, and Sucker Bet. Swain is considered one of the best card handlers in the world. He lives in Odessa, Florida, where he is currently working on his fourth mystery featuring Tony Valentine. Visit his Web site at


Tony Valentine, a retired cop, works as a consultant to gambling casinos when they need professional cheaters investigated. After the latest hustler hits a second-rate Las Vegas casino three times but escapes, a female dealer is accused of collusion. Called in to identify the hustler, Valentine finally comes up with a name a consummate but recently murdered crook named Sonny Fontana. Can the dead return to hustle again? Is the dealer as innocent as she appears? And will Valentine reconcile with his ne'er-do-well, gambling son? Find out in this well-crafted, dryly humorous, and highly enjoyable series debut. For all collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Billed as one of the best card-handlers in the world, Swain packs this first novel with enough tidbits on the art to back up the claim. Combine that insider's knowledge with clean writing and a reasonable con, and the result is a fun read ? la Elmore Leonard. A grifter named Frank Fontaine strolls into a faded Las Vegas joint, the Acropolis Resort & Casino, and cleans up at a blackjack table. Though the dealer at the table, Nola Briggs, has a spotless record, it seems impossible that Fontaine could have pulled it off alone. The club's owner, Nick Nicocropolis, calls in consultant Tony Valentine, a retired cop from Atlantic City who's an expert on casino scams. Tony is puzzled by this one: he watches the surveillance tape repeatedly, but he can't figure out how Fontaine is doing it. Even more mysterious to Tony is that Fontaine obviously enjoys the attention he attracts. Good hustlers like to rake in their chips as inconspicuously as possible; it's the only way they can continue to work. Tony heads for Vegas, where he meets up with a group of near-stereotypes who are saved from that fate by some nice details. The plot unfolds, and our hero is properly modest and clever. Quirkiness is occasionally forced and names are singularly unimaginative. The domestic scenes in the book, with Tony's neighbor Mabel or his son Gerry, are a little stilted and unconvincing, but the heart of the book lies in the dubious charms of a second-rate Las Vegas casino, and there the author does a terrific job. Agent, Jennifer Hengen at Sterling Lord. (June 12) Forecast: As Ricky Jay and David Mamet (in House of Games) have shown, this kind of authentic picture of con men and card tricks has wide appeal. Targeted hand-selling could reach beyond the mystery market. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

"A WELL-PLOTTED DEBUT MYSTERY THAT PAYS OFF HANDSOMELY. . . . Grift Sense delivers a vivid and credible look at the gaming industry through eccentric yet believable characters."
--Chicago Tribune

"In Tony Valentine, Swain has created a classic detective who will have a long career as a series hero."
St. Petersburg Times

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