In this fifth novel of the series, Tony Valentine is still dealing with the temptation of Lucy Price, his own son Gerry and his mistakes, as well as catching cons and cheaters through his company, GriftSense. It is because of his company and the fact that Tony is the best that his old friend, Bill Higgins, director of the Nevada Gaming Control Board flies out to Florida to make a personal pitch for help. Higgins knows a recent winner, Ricky Smith, had to have cheated but he doesn’t know how and the fact that Ricky is a media sensation doesn’t help matters.


After escaping a burning hotel by jumping several stories into a swimming pool, Ricky Smith, named Mr. Lucky by the media, walked across the street and into the Mint.  Once inside the casino he couldn’t stop winning. He took the casino for more than 200 thousand at Blackjack, 250 thousand at Roulette, and another 300 thousand at craps. He then moved on to playing poker with the legendary Tex “All In” Snyder and whipped him for a nice chunk of change. Higgins knows Mr. Lucy had to have cheated, somehow, and wants Tony to prove it.


They make a deal and soon Tony and his son, Gerry, are working the case from opposite angles. Tony heads for the hometown of Slippery Rock, North Carolina where Ricky is from while Gerry is supposed to go to Gulfport, Mississippi and see Tex Snyder. Before long, each has dug up far more than they bargained for. Throw in the Dixie Mafia, violent small town crooks, and some rather annoyed cops, and this read becomes another roller coaster ride in the series and another treat from James Swain.


Just like the series as a whole, this novel is an up and down ride where suspects are many as are the motivations and misdirection is common. Character development is limited and consists mainly of Gerry’s ongoing battle to resist the demons within and turn his life around thanks to the heavy influence of his wife Yolanda and new baby. He is desperately trying to redeem himself and be the kind of man his father is and that his family needs while at the same time resisting the ever present lure of easy cash in the form of one scheme or another. His eternal struggle and guilt over it mirrors Tony’s own struggle with guilt over the role he played in Lucy’s recent lapse in judgment and resulting arrest.


As always, those themes are secondary to the main mystery storyline and detailed explanations of various cheating scams. Like other novels in this series, the author’s book is a primer on how to spot cheating on both sides of the table and is often laugh out loud funny as various scenarios are explained.


Then there is the fact that this read is simply just plain old good fun. Danger exists but unlike real life, one knows with a shadow of a doubt it all will turn out right in the end. Sometimes it just doesn’t get better than that.




Mr. Lucky

By James Swain

Ballentine Books


ISBN # 0-345-47544-5


354 Pages


Kevin R. Tipple © 2008


“By The Light Of The Moon”
The Carpathian Shadows  Volume 2


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