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Set in glitzy Las Vegas, this mystery novel unravels two grotesque crimes. Relive the heady days of the U.S. real estate bubble when corrupt lenders – and many other players -- dealt painful fraud that led to the country’s financial bust of 2008.
Look inside the mind of a Vegas con man and watch him first gain, then exploit, the trust of an investor group, one nest egg at a time. As the con artist’s deception unfolds, you’ll see how the greed-fueled real estate fever set the stage for the Great Recession. The book’s theme says it all: Those seduced by greed can lose not only their money but also their sanity and soul — and even their very lives.
THE COPS: One cranky, one wistful. Meet Detective Frank Stetson and partner Billy Snow, alter egos and feisty foils for each other. Stetson is a grumpy, burly ex-linebacker who barks at his team. Snow is the softer side, witty and cool, but still a tough and solid sleuth. Billy moonlights as a screenwriter.
THE BODIES: Con artist Roger Blackstone and his brother Walter, bagman for their real estate scams. Walter is found headless and hanging upside down, limp as a jumbo shrimp, from a freeway billboard. Cringe when Roger pushes one scam too far and gawk as his mark goes berserk and unleashes a truly bizarre weapon.
THE CLUES: Follow the cops as they decipher clues from as small as a 20-dollar bill with cryptic words and digits to as large as a luxury yacht docked at an unknown harbor. Discover more clues: Telltale words whispered to a prostitute; a padlocked storage space behind an artist’s gallery; and a creepy skull encased in a bowling ball. When the skull ball shows up, it is indeed a clue but presumed at first to be a prank.
THE KILLERS: One accidental, one vengeful. Both snapped. Shadow Stetson and Snow as they hound these culprits, combing a construction site of ghost condos, plumbing the facade of a dusty mining town to search for the con man’s stolen cash, and snaring a fugitive in a chase that climaxes atop Hoover Dam. And channel Michael Connelly’s Black Echo while you squint in the dark as two suspects are stalked in the dismal flood tunnels beneath the Vegas neon.
In theory, this story could have been set anywhere in the U.S.A. But anchored by the book’s theme of Greed, what American city could better personify that Cardinal Sin than Vegas? Where else is there such a disharmonic convergence of excess and opulence? … Not to mention those two other Seven Deadly Sins: Gluttony and Lust.
Vegas Snap tells how ordinary people make extraordinary mistakes. In a larger sense, it’s also about how Greed fueled the real estate boom of 2003-2007, which, in turn, triggered the bust of 2008 that almost trashed the country during the Great Recession. Less than one year after the Vegas Snap story ends, Lehman Brothers went under, Bear Stearns disappeared, and Merrill Lynch, Wachovia Bank, and Washington Mutual were gobbled up by the largest banks which the Feds claimed were “Too Big to Fail.”
About the same time, Bernie Madoff was arrested for crafting his multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. Steven Spielberg and other luminaries were among those that Madoff duped. And yet Vegas Snap’s fraud victims are not big-name celebrities and are by no means wealthy. In fact, the con man who cheats them is no Madoff. He’s a small-time swindler. It becomes clear fairly soon into the novel that the victims are as guilty as the con man. That Greed is an equal opportunity sin. Or, as one of the Vegas cops puts it, “It takes two to do the con tango.”