Monday 3 October 2011

Uncommon Criminals

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter (Lothian/Hachette)
PB RRP $16.99
ISBN 978 7344 1193 8
Reviewed by Hilary Smillie

For readers hooked by Heist Society the second book, involving Katarina Bishop and her crew, will not disappoint.

Kat is determined to shake off the “thief” image of her family background although she does not hesitate when it comes to returning stolen art or jewellery to its rightful owners. But a heist involving the Cleopatra Emerald is another matter, one her Uncle Eddie has forbidden. When an elderly woman, Constance Miller and her grandson Marshall ask Kat and Hale, her close, fabulously rich teenage friend, to do this very thing, Kat is in a quandary.

A decision is made to do the heist after Kat and Hale are told that they have been recommended by Romani Visily, a sacred name used only by the best thieves for the most worthy causes. Also, Kat’s confidence levels are high, having just returned to New York from a successful solo mission to Moscow.

Even though the 97 karat Cleopatra Emerald is known to be cursed, Kat is more concerned that her relatives gathered in Paraguay (or Uraguay – she is never quite sure) will find out their intentions. Gabrielle, her beautiful cousin is in town and the three teenagers set out to formulate a plan to somehow grab the emerald from its present owner, auctioneer Oliver Kelly. The Kelly Corporation is bringing the gem to New York.

The Cleopatra Emerald is the most heavily guarded gem in the world and all attempts in the past to capture it, including the ones by Kat’s uncles, failed. But with clever planning and a visit to reclusive Uncle Charlie in Austria for a replica emerald, the heist is carried out and the genuine emerald returned to Constance Miller. And then Constance Miller appears in a TV documentary and Kat knows she has been conned – brilliantly conned. The real Constance Miller in the documentary is not the elderly woman Kat met. When Kat next sees that woman she is once again on TV calling herself Margaret Brooks and claiming to have discovered the Antony Emerald, the other half of the Cleopatra. She announces the gem will be auctioned.
Devastated by her mistake, Kat is equally determined to redeem herself by besting Maggie Brooks, undoubtedly a superb thief, maybe the most accomplished in the world.

Ally Carter’s highly sophisticated storyline and enigmatic writing skills are a delight to the reader. The problems presented to the heist crew seem insurmountable, but each teenager has vital talents to contribute. Kat, Hale and Gabrielle are joined by Simon, a computer genius, twins Hamish and Angus Bagshaw, Nick whose mother, Amelia is with Interpol, and Marcus, Hale’s chauffeur, to foil Maggie and secure justice for the real Constance Miller.

Against a lavish background involving Hale’s private jet and yacht, the Casino de Monte-Carlo and the Palace, Kat Bishop, with the backup of the heist crew, uses all her thief skills and experience to bring this mission to a stunning end. I can highly recommend Uncommon Criminals.

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