Funny Money

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Another book I bought long ago (circa 2003, I think) for reasons I have long since forgotten. If it was award-nominated, I can't find any record of it. There's a glowing blurb on the front cover from Michael Connelly ("James Swain is the best new writer I have come across."), so that might have been it. I'm not typically seduced by blurbs, though.

Never mind the reasons, it was an enjoyable read. Not quite enough to dump James Swain's seventeen other novels onto my to-be-read pile, but a veritable page-turner.

It is the second book in Swain's "Tony Valentine" series. Tony is an ex-cop from Atlantic City, a recent widower, and runs a consulting service out of his Florida digs, specializing in figuring out how gambling casinos are being ripped off by their patrons and employees. He has a wayward son who keeps making bad choices.

I cast the movie after only reading a few pages: Gregory Jbara, the guy who plays Frank Reagan's assistant Garrett on the TV show Blue Bloods. Don't know why, but he just popped into my head and stayed there while I was reading.

Anyway, Tony's ex-partner gets killed (no spoiler, that's page 8) while he's on the phone with Tony. So: this time it's personal. It's apparently tied in with a casino being taken at blackjack by a gang of scruffy players of European descent. Along the way, Tony meets a beautiful lady professional wrestler, a mobster who's threatening Tony's son, a bunch of Atlantic City cops (clean and dirty), and the Governor of Florida. And many more.

It's a lot of fun, and there's a nice twisty revelation in the penultimate chapter that I seriously did not see coming.