Retired Atlantic City cop Tony Valentine learned how to spot casino cheaters while on the job, becoming something of an expert at exposing their cons. Now he's living in retirement in Florida and working as a consultant to the gambling industry.

An old friend from the Nevada Gaming Board asks Tony to check on an Indian gambling casino in the Everglades. A blackjack dealer has disappeared, and it appears he was cheating. When Tony arrives at the casino, he learns that the dealer is dead and was last seen in the company of a notorious mobster. The elders of the tribe ask Tony to take the case.

SUCKER BET, the third in Swain's Tony Valentine series, is a wild trawl through high and low life in Miami and points west. Along the way, the reader learns a myriad of particulars about cheating at gambling and the basic strategy of blackjack. (The author is an expert on gambling and card handling.) Fast-paced and fun, even if you've never been in a casino, the book offers a truly eccentric mix of characters, including a hooker, an aging rock star, a carnival owner with a sidekick who just happens to be a chimp and other assorted oddities. (Apr., 320 pp., $19.95)

Reviewed by: 
Lorraine Gelly