Grift Sense is the debut novel by James Swain that introduces Tony Valentine. Valentine is a retired cop who now works as a consultant to gaming establishments, attempting to prevent them from being cheated.
Tony has mostly worked in New Jersey and has compiled a huge database of hustlers and crooks who attempt to defraud casinos. He doesn’t much like Las Vegas but he feels compelled to answer a call from the owner of the Acropolis, a gaudy, aging, down on the heels Vegas operation.
A gambler named Frank Fontaine has breezed into town and nicked the Acropolis for $50,000 at the blackjack tables. Fontaine is way too good to be purely lucky and he’s making plays that no intelligent gambler would make. Worst of all, the plays are almost always paying off and, given the precarious state of the casino’s finances, if this keeps up the place could go under.
Valentine arrives in town and is almost immediately convinced that a beautiful blonde dealer is assisting Fontaine, but Tony can’t figure out how the scheme is being worked. During the course of his investigation, Valentine encounters more than a fair share of very colorful characters and soon finds that he’s threatening the interests of some very nasty people who don’t take this sort of thing lightly.
Grift Sense is a very good read and an introduction to an unusual and appealing protagonist. Swain obviously has some experience in these matters, and one of the really interesting things about these books is the explanation of the schemes that some hustlers use to defraud casinos. There’s a fair amount of humor involved; the story is interesting and all in all, readers will almost certainly enjoy spending an evening or two in the company of Tony Valentine.