by Bruce TierneyMarch, 2005
Mystery of the month
The March Tip of the Ice Pick goes to James Swain for his exquisitely rendered Mr. Lucky. Tony Valentine knows more about gambling scams than anyone alive. A retired Atlantic City cop, Valentine has opened an agency to help casinos identify the cheaters that cost the industry billions of dollars each year. However, Valentine has never met anyone as lucky as North Carolina hayseed Ricky Smith. Having survived a multistory fall from a burning Las Vegas hotel, Smith walked across the street to a casino and proceeded to take them for a small fortune. Blackjack, roulette, craps, straight poker, Ricky couldn't lose. To make matters even more unbelievable, when he returns home to rural Slippery Rock, he wins a long-shot bet on a horse race and $50,000 more on a single lottery ticket purchase. Valentine smells a rat, and pays a visit to Slippery Rock to see what he can dig up (and, as is often the case in mystery novels, he digs up way more than he had bargained for). Author James Swain is an accomplished card magician in his own right, as well as a world-renowned authority on cheating; he knows whereof he speaks, and he delivers it to his readers clearly and succinctly through the voice of Tony Valentine.