Monday, January 11, 2016

Tony Valentine Is Back in Vegas

Readers who follow this series will certainly not be surprised to learn that Tony Valentine's son, Gerry is in big trouble. Again. Time after time, Tony has bailed Gerry out of dangerous situations; time after time, Gerry has promised to reform, and time after time, his promise is very short-lived.

Gerry is now married to a beautiful woman, much better than he deserves, and they are expecting their first child. If anything is going to cause Gerry to straighten out and fly right, you'd think this would be it, and he now agrees to take a job working for his father.

For those who haven't read this series yet, Tony Valentine is an ex-New Jersey detective and gambling expert. He retired from the police force and created a consulting business called Grift Sense. Working from his base in Florida, Tony advises casinos how to avoid getting ripped off and he specializes in catching cheaters who are attempting to defraud casinos.

So that Gerry may be better able to work in the business, Tony sends him to an underground card-counting school in Vegas. The idea, of course, is that this will enable Gerry to be better able to spot card counters. But Gerry being Gerry, it takes all of about ten minutes before he surrenders to the Dark Side, becomes involved in a scheme to rip off casinos and drops out of sight.

Gerry's wife, Yolanda, is about to give birth and of course is very worried, especially when people begin calling the house demanding that Gerry pay the money he allegedly owes them and when Yolanda finds a bag of unpaid bills hidden under the bed. Naturally she appeals to Tony who is also worried, even more so when he discovers that Gerry has charged a gun to Tony's AmEx card.

Tony heads out to Vegas, ostensibly to advise some casino owners about a new high-tech device designed to make it easy to rip off blackjack tables, but really to find Gerry and get him back on the straight and narrow. Once there, he discovers that his old friend Nick Nicocropolis is also in trouble. Nick owns an aging resort and casino and a couple of competitors are trying to run him out of business so that they can buy his casino on the cheap and bulldoze it. To this end, they've hired a gang of cheaters to bankrupt him. Nick appeals to Tony for help and, as long as Tony is in town, of course he'll do what he can.

In the meantime, Gerry is refusing to answer his phone and it quickly becomes clear that he's fallen in with some very bad and dangerous people. Not only his freedom but his very life may be in danger, and even his father may not be able to rescue him this time.

Like the first three entries in this series, this is a breezy and very entertaining novel. The characters and the dialog are great and, as always, it's a lot of fun watching Tony uncover and explain the various ways that people attempt to cheat at gambling. I'm giving the book three stars rather than four because at the end the plot veers off in a way that seems not only implausible but totally inappropriate for a book in this series. Overall, though, the book is a lot of fun and fans of Tony Valentine will certainly want to find it. Other potential readers who might be curious about the series would be better off looking for Grift Sense, the book that introduces Tony Valentine.

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