Super Con, by James Swain. Thomas & Mercer, 376 pages. Trade paperback. $15.95.
James Swain has long been the king of mystery fiction that deals in magic, gambling, and graft. His newest series, featuring Billy Cunningham, entices readers with insider information on Las Vegas, the gambling industry, and the myriad ploys of cheaters. The moral premise of the series is that the gambling industry is by its very nature corrupt. The odds are against us whenever we step into casino.
The sounds of the coins jingling in the slot machines, along with the occasional large payoffs at the roulette wheels and the blackjack tables, whet the appetites of both the naive and the addicted. If the casinos only exist to take our money, it seems fair enough for there to be specialists in the gaming arts who are there to take the casinos’ money.
There are such confidence men, and Billy is the top dog. Clever, usually cautious, and a shrewd reader of human nature, Billy has an effective crew of subordinates who can execute his plans to rip off one or another casino income source. He can create big winnings at the card tables, manipulate the slots, and — in the case of this caper — design a plan for windfall payoffs in sports betting.
This time out he is going to fix the betting strategy for the Super Bowl so that huge winnings come his way. For this momentous payoff, he needs allies who will share in the execution, the risks, and the profit. Billy’s plans are compromised by Broken Tooth, a Chinese crime boss who has leverage on Billy and wants him to assure the Super Bowl’s outcome through rigging the game, a quite different matter from rigging the betting.
Readers will enjoy the various scams and devices that allow the desired cheating to be accomplished. They will enjoy the feeling that Mr. Swain’s descriptions allow them of feeling like they are part of this unfamiliar world with its secrets and codes of conduct. The will get to know the members of his crew, the major figures from other crews with whom Billy associates, and the sometimes shady figures who police the gambling industry, supposedly on behalf of the public. . . .
To read the full review, as it appears in the December 6, 2017 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 7 Naples, Charlotte County, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Super Con