Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tony Valentine Is Back in Atlantic City and Back in Trouble Again

Sixty-two year-old Tony Valentine is retired from the police force in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He now lives in Florida and runs his own consulting service, Grift Sense. Tony has an uncanny ability to spot “crossroaders”—people who are cheating at casino games, and he is often hired by casinos to spot cheaters that are outwitting the casinos’ own personnel.

Often Tony can do this from the comfort of his Florida home. A casino security team sends Tony a video recording of the suspected cheater and Tony can analyze the recording, spot the cheater’s moves and report back by phone. But then Tony gets a call from his long-time police department partner, Doyle Flanagan, who has also gone out on his own and who is investigating a blackjack player who has hit an Atlantic City casino for six million dollars. Flanagan is stumped and could use some help, but before Tony hardly has a chance to look at the video, Flanagan is killed in a bomb blast, presumably set by the people he was investigating.

So this time, it’s personal. Tony flies up to A.C. and takes over the investigation. It’s clear that some very strange things are going on in this casino, especially at the blackjack tables, but Tony is initially baffled. He knows that the big winner is playing with a partner and that they have to be cheating—no one could be either that good or that lucky. But even with all his experience, Tony can’t figure out how the cheaters are working the scam and before long, he finds himself in the sights of the same people who killed his friend.

If all of that weren’t bad enough, Tony also continues to have problems with his practically worthless excuse for a son, Gerry. Tony has bailed out his son time after time, and even though he attempts to practice something approaching tough love with the stupid kid, Gerry just keeps digging himself deeper and deeper into trouble. In this case, Gerry has lost $50,000 to some mobsters who are threatening him with great bodily harm—or worse—if he doesn’t pay up. As always, unable to stand on his own two feet, Gerry comes running home to Papa, hoping that Dear Old Dad will pull his chestnuts out of the fire one more time. In consequence, Tony will find himself under fire from this front as well.

All in all, this book is a lot of fun. Valentine is a great character; there’s a lot of humor, and along the way, the reader learns a great deal about the myriad of ways in which cheaters try to find an edge against the casinos. This is a very worthy sequel to the first Valentine novel, Grift Sense, and one looks forward eagerly to Valentine’s next appearance.

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