This is a much less twisty book than the first one, and so I'm surprised I liked it better. Part of my problem with the first one was that it was so
obvious, as a reader, what was going on that it was intensely frustrating that it took the protagonist so long to catch up. I like
dramatic irony, but it's hard to pull off in a tight first-person point of view. Yes, part of Cassel's problem was that someone was messing with his memories, but they left him more than enough clues to pick up.
Here, no one's messing with Cassel's memories. In fact, very few people are working at all. That means it's mostly about "straightforward" conning and trickery, with Cassel generally (but not always) one jump ahead of the rest.
At the same time, some of his cons from the last book come back to bite him in the ass, and it's clear (at least to this reader) that some of these cons are going to misfire in the future. That's
a dramatic irony I can appreciate, because I can believe that Cassel is too self-confident to see where he's setting tripwires for himself.
This is very much a middle book. It's about moving pieces on the gameboard, setting everything up for the final show. But it does it so skillfully that I can't help but applaud.