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    Review of LOADED DICE by James Swain (see his website)


    Ballantine, June 2004

    Ex-cop and private investigator Tony Valentine is in Las Vegas checking up on the latest gambling scams. He finds plenty of crooks and con-men working their trade, but something more serious is going on. Tony becomes a suspect in the murder of a stripper, his home back in Florida is invaded by FBI agents who think that the Patriot Act allows them to enter homes without a search warrant, and his son disappears from sight. First, Tony has to save his friend's casino which is under attack from a career criminal who just may be working with the FBI, then he has to deal with a middle eastern terrorist threat.

    Author James Swain (see more reviews of novels by Swain) is at his best when he's dealing with the fascinating world of professional gambling and the eternal war between cheaters and the professionals who try to stop them. Aging ex-cop Valentine, with his problems with his son and his conflicted feelings about women makes an intriguing hero. For me, though, LOADED DICE felt like two books mashed together. On the one hand, we have the fascinating problem of Nick Nicocropolis and his casino under attack. On the other, a superhero vs. the evil terrorist subplot. Either one could have worked. By putting them both in a relatively short mystery, Swain ended up shortcharging both of them.

    Swain's strong writing and the information about gambling, cheating, and catching crooks definitely makes LOADED DICE worth reading. For me, though, this is not the strongest of the very nice Tony Valentine series.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 7/03/04

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