Grand Central, Jan 2008, $7.99, 368pp.
He was once the king of the Grifters, but after spending several years as a guest of the state, Kip Largo stays clean as he fears a return engagement. Instead he lives in a dump in Palo Alto, has no friends or family who will talk to him, and ekes out a meager living at a dry cleaner and selling vitamins over the net.
When the femme fatale blonde approaches him with her scheme, Kip thinks beauties like her ignore guys like him except as expendable pawns. She offers him a plan to con her spouse Las Vegas casino owner Ed Napier out of $20 million. Kip’s share will save his offspring Toby from further beatings and eventually death from Russian mafia enforcers who demand he pay back his debt of several hundred thousand dollars and growing. Well aware of the risk, Kip obtains investment money from the mob, puts together a team including a programmer, and offers Pythia, a program that predicts stock price changes especially with the dot-com mania though as he sets in motion the game he fears he is being out-conned by a drop dead gorgeous blonde and her husband
This is a terrific cautionary tale warning about repeating stock market bubbles and corrections and not to trust the media to play hard-boil at the start (not after the horse has left the stable). The subplots involving other stings, the dot.com investment mania, and the reporters failing to investigate the '90s investment craze (Iraq is media déjà vu) add fascinating depth for a fun prime story line. Modern day Noir readers will wonder whether Kip can pull off the scheme and train his son in the art of the con while wondering along with the hard boiled hero whether he is being set up by the beautiful blond.