I love it when a plan comes together, and I adore caper stories. So you probably won’t be surprised to learn I’ve been reading a lot of lovable rogues lately.
Just finished up reading The Heist, the first book in a new(ish) series from Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. I tried to get into her Stephanie Plum series several years ago, but either it wasn’t the right time, or I wasn’t in the right mood or something. This series, however, hits me in one of my soft, squishy areas of vulnerability: caper or heist stories.
I mean, it’s right there in the title.
I’m a total sucker for outlandish cons pulled by a crack team of wisecracking specialists. In this case, the team is lead by FBI agent Kate O’Hare and charming master thief Nick Fox. One interesting twist in this particular take on The A-Team/Ocean’s 11/Mission Impossible is that the rest of the team aren’t professionals.
After being captured by Kate, Nick works a deal with the FBI. But he doesn’t want to risk exposing his usual confederates to the feds. So they recruit a crew of promising amateurs, including an actor from the dinner theater circuit, a special effects artist, a carpenter who builds amazing treehouses (no kidding!) and a woman “who once took a freight train for a joyride.” This works in the book’s favor, making it easy to root for the team of mostly-innocent “criminals.”
I especially enjoyed Kate’s interactions with her father, who also joins in the fun. Of course, the O’Hare family sense of fun encompasses shooting at bad guys with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Fox & O’Hare have an “early seasons of Castle” level of sexual tension, so if you like that, you’ll probably enjoy The Heist.
I like caper stories so much, I wrote my own book The Skull Game (Belle Starr episode 2) as sort of a “heist lite” story, featuring double-crosses and interwoven cons. I call it a “heist lite” because Shaen is a lot more Howlin’ Mad Murdock than Hannibal. She’s pretty sharp (for an insane person), but she doesn’t have that strategic, six-steps-ahead kind of mind — and she doesn’t play well with others.
Other caper stories I’ve enjoyed over the past few years include:
The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes. Basically, if you crossed Ocean’s Eleven with Dungeons & Dragons, this is what you’d get. I loved it. Weekes’ day job is writing for Bioware’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age game series, so that should tell you the dialogue is both hilarious and awesome. One joke alone made high school French class worthwhile. The sequel, The Prophecy Con was still enjoyable, although not quite up to the level of the first, and the third entry, The Paladin Caper, is due out this October.
Valour & Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal. Another fabulous caper mash-up, this time combining Jane Austen plus magic, with a con job, in Venice (or thereabouts). Which sounds nuts and basically is, but just go with it. It took a little longer getting to the heist-y part for my taste, but that’s probably owing to the more slow-boil pace of your typical Regency plot.
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Or really, any of the books from the Gentlemen Bastards sequence. Dirty rotten (and immensely likable) scoundrels in a second-world fantasy reminiscent of late Medieval Italy. The second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies adds pirates, and the third, The Republic of Thieves, adds wizards, but they’re all about the con.
Got any good caper or heist story recos? Drop ’em in the comments.