this is the 215th in my series of forgotten or seldom read books
note: this review previously appeared in The Perp, my mystery fanzine for DAPA-Em
Funny Money by James Swain, Ballantine Books, 2002 paperback, mystery – Tony Valentine, 2nd in series
I went to the panel James Swain did at the 2003 Las Vegas Bouchercon and was impressed and intrigued. I wasn’t the only one; the book room sold out of his books after the panel. When I got home I picked this one up at the local bookstore and ordered the first in the series, Grift Sense. I usually read series in order but I was too impatient. This was one of the most enjoyable mysteries I’d read in some time.
Tony Valentine, ex Atlantic City cop, lives in Florida and makes his living as a consultant, fingering scams and cons for casinos and the law. He also acts as an expert witness at trials. He’s the best at what he does, which is why he gets a grand a day plus expenses.
In this one, Valentine’s long-time friend and ex-partner Doyle Flanagan calls to say he’s hot on the trail of a big scam. During the phone call Flanagan says a white van is pulling up, then shouts that someone is pointing what looks like a little radio at him and then boom!
So Valentine goes to Atlantic City to find out who killed his friend. He finds more than one con being played on The Bombay, the casino which has been hit for a cool six million dollars. The plot makes several twists and turns before things begin to sort themselves and make sense.
The writing is good and the plot is good but it’s the characters that make this one so much fun to read. That and the lingo and the scams and explanations that Swain, who knows this stuff, give us. I got the first book a couple of weeks later and enjoyed it just as much. This is a series worth looking for and reading. Good stuff.