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Mr. Lucky: A Novel of High Stakes (Tony Valentine Novels (Paperback)) Mass Market Paperback – August 28, 2007

4.6 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews
Book 5 of 9 in the Tony Valentine Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the stunning opener, gambler Ricky Smith takes a swan dive from a burning balcony into a pool as the Riverboat Casino in Vegas goes up in flames. Smith gets up, walks across the street to the Mint and proceeds to win a cool million, never losing a hand. The odds say no one's that lucky. Tony Valentine, head of Grift Sense, a gambling consulting company, gets called in to find out exactly how Ricky cheated, so the casino doesn't have to pay. For his fifth outing (Sucker Bet, etc.), Swain presents his 63-year-old retired cop with his most involved mystery yet. Readers gain expected info on chip scams, while the plot goes delightfully over the top like Agatha Christie at her wildest, with gypsies, drug cartels and one piece of misdirection after another (not least that dive from the balcony). Occasional preachiness interrupts the action, as Tony explains how awful killing bad guys makes you feel--but he still keeps shooting them in the head. The narrative nails gambling cold, noting that televised poker has convinced millions they know how to play: "Professionals had a name for these new players. They called them suckers."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

What is casino consultant Tony Valentine doing in Slippery Rock, North Carolina? Catching cheaters, of course, but this time he's stumped. Sure, Ricky Smith of Slippery Rock--who escaped a Vegas fire by jumping five stories into the pool and then, still dripping, beat the house at every game in the casino--is cheating, but how can you cheat at everything? With Tony trying to figure out the scam behind the small-town charm, his wayward son, Gerry, a former scammer himself, is running an errand for Dad and finds himself in the middle of a Mob fight in Mississippi. If all Swain had going for him was a dynamite premise--inside dope on how casino games work--this series would still be good fun, but he adds all the sinew we look for in the best caper novels: quirky characters on both sides of the law who constantly surprise us with just the right mix of comedy, violence, and humanity. Yes, that's Elmore Leonard territory, but Swain has annexed a nice little subdivision all for himself. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Tony Valentine Novels (Paperback)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (August 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345475453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345475459
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,130,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary Griffiths VINE VOICE on May 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James Swain's "Mr. Lucky" is a cleverly written, highly entertaining mystery that grabs attention from the first page and doesn't let go. Ricky Smith is the perpetual loser who uncannily strikes it rich, not just once but repeatedly, cleaning up in Vegas at Black Jack, craps, roulette, and even poker, taking a Vegas casino for a cool one-million in a single crazy night. But Smith's luck doesn't stop, as he picks a $50-grand scratch-off sweapstakes ticket and wins the annual charity raffle in hometown Slippery Rock, North Carolina. Suspecting they've been swindled, the casino hires Tony Valentine, former Atlantic City casino cop and expert in gambling scams and cons. Swain, who in real life is in fact an authority in the ways casinos can be swindled, spins a fascinating story that is as revealing as it is fun. Swain's prose is refreshing free of self-importance, breezing through the pages with an unencumbered confidence and dark humor that is easy to take. Put your feet up, sit back and enjoy Swain's guided tour through Vegas casinos and Mississippi river boat gambling barges, of hookers and Carolina hillbillies and redneck thugs, while the cagey Tony Valentine unravels "Mr. Lucky's" sudden streak of good fortune. Fiction at its finest, this was my first James Swain/Tony Valentine novel - it surely won't be my last.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was my first experience with Mr. Swain's writing and his central character, Tony Valentine. It won't be my last. In fact I have already ordered all of his previous novels and if that isn't an indication of how talented this writer is as a story teller, than I don't know what is. Mr. Lucky is a book you read just for it's sheer entertainment value. Ricky Smith, a loser all of his life, has just won $20,000 gambling in Las Vegas. He has brought a georgeous babe up to his room to celebrate. She has her own ideas of celebration and tries to slip him a Mickey which he catches her at. In the midst of throwing her out of his room, he discovers the hotel on the Vegas strip is on fire. There is no escape for Ricky except to jump from his balcony. His luck continues and he survives the fall and then goes on one of the most remarkable gambling streaks that has ever been seen in Las Vegas. It is almost too good to be true, which is exactly what the casino owners in Vegas believe and his million or so dollars in winnings are held up pending an investigation. Enter Tony Valentine, owner of Grift Sense, a gambling consulting company and one of the most knowledgeable men on the face of the earth concerning scams that people try to perpetrate on casinos. Tony sets out to try and explain how such a streak of luck is a con and while he is doing it, Ricky continues his streak winning a lottery drawing and picking three winners in a horse race to show his luck is still holding.

Checking Ricky out takes Tony to Slippery Rock, NC, Ricky's sleepy home town and it takes his son on a trip to Mississippi where Ricky has bested one of the top poker players in the world in a game of Texas Hold 'Em.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In series novels there comes a time when the writer either makes or breaks. This novel is IT and if you have been following the Tony Valentine series and are considering this book - BUY IT. This is fast paced, action, wit, and just enough of the "Gizmo" (dishonest gambling) to keep you reading all night.

The dual plot (Tony and Jerry) is well developed and could be a little more interrelated, but Jerry finally becomes more than a cardboard cut out. In this novel he is in contact with his father learning the family casino detective trade by way of trial and error and with some long distance help from dad while Tony is concerned with the main plot. Enough is said in other reviews concerning the role of "Mr. Lucky" and it is a shame to tell much, but the implications of big cheating is big money and bigger schemes and Swain plays this well.

The added attraction in this novel is the consideration, not in any preaching fashion, but reflectively of the moral and ethical implications of actions: is it proper to simply cut an addicted gambler loose, what is the role of the community in developing a gambling culture, what harm comes to innocents? And in a modern society, how does all this lead to violence? Swain does not preach, but like Tony he knows cause and effect. Come to think of it, logical analysis is very much in the center of his writing.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Is Mr. Lucky what he appears to be, the world's luckiest man on an unbelievable winning streak? Tony Valentine and his son Gerry are about to discover the answer to this question. Swain takes on many adventures with them as they investigate Mr Lucky. Along the way he will have the reader asking, "What would I do in this situation?"
If you haven't read a Swain book before prepare yourself for an entertaining read and an introspective look at life and your own morality. The twists and turns of this novel will have you reading as much and as quickly as possible. I highly recommend Swain's writing!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
MR LUCKY is the another great read in the entertaining and well written series by James Swain featuring Tony Valentine, a retired cop from New Jersey whose beat covered the casinos in Atlantic City. In retirement Valentine provides valuable advice to casinos throughout the world on identifying cheaters.

Tony thinks he's seen it all until he meets Ricky Smith, once a small-town loser, who now seems to be the luckiest man on earth. Ricky gets caught in a hotel fire in Las Vegas, and survives when he dived off a high-rise balcony through the hotel spar glass roof and onto a mattress. In bare feet he runs over to the next door casino and starts an incredible winning streak around the tables and even beats world's greatest poker player Tex "All In" Snyder.

Nobody has that kind of winning streak and the casino won't pay out until all possible scams are investigated. Despite vowing never to work on Nevada casino matters again Valentine takes on the challenge of showing that Mr Lucky hadn't been lucky at all. When he travels to Ricky's home town, appropriately called Slippery Rock, to find out more about the lucky man he finds more than he expects, especially when his investigation starts to become violent.

Because he is on a tight time schedule and can't be in two places at once, Valentine reluctantly co-opts his son Gerry, who has had gambling problems in his past, to visit Tex Snyder, reportedly a pretty obnoxious individual. Gerry gets tempted by Snyder which brings him into a violent confrontation with the Dixie Mafia.

Swain takes us on a switchback of violence and tricks which extend his magic understanding of gambling tricks to the limit. Again it was an easy and entertaining read which gives an amazing insight into the murky world of gambling scams and cheating.
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