Book Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter


Heist Society by Ally Carter. This is the summary from Ally Carter’s website:

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected.

Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s history–and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Heist Society reads like a cross between The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Ocean’s 11, except with a bit more of a Robin Hood complex. Once you get past the conceit of the jet-setting unsupervised minors and just let it happen, it’s a really enjoyable read.

Kat has done her best to get out of the crime game into which she was born. She conned her way into one of the best private schools, before her best friend and her cousin framed her for a massive prank involving the headmaster’s car. Her entire family history is a veritable who’s-who of criminal masterminds. Her uncle regularly pickpockets to keep him sharp; her best friend and future love interest, the multimillionaire Hale, pulls jobs just for the thrills; her cousin Gabrielle is just a bit too showy for Kat’s comfort, though she is not afraid to use her to distract unwary guards; and she has another group of friends who love technology, explosives, which they are more than ready and willing to use.

I have not read any Ally Carter until now, though I have been aware of her Gallagher Girls series of books, which many compare to Horowitz’s Alex Rider books. I love her narrative voice. Her tone is witty, thoughtful, and, I felt, real. Kat is a girl who just wants to be normal, yet her past continues to catch up with her. Kat is an interesting, complex character who learns that she must count on family, despite their oddities, and to do the right thing with the skill set you have. Now, granted, the “right” thing here involves robbing a museum, which is rationalized by the fact that the paintings aren’t really the museum’s, but it works in the end.

There is a bit of mystery surrounding her dead mother’s past, which I presume will come up in future books, a master thief (using an infamous pseudonym) who seems to be taunting her by staying just one step ahead, and an Italian criminal who has threatened to kill her father for supposedly stealing a set of paintings. There’s actually a really solid historical tie-in which grounds this potentially fantastic story. The paintings Kat and company seek to steal were stolen by Nazis during World War II. There are some really touching accounts of these incidents throughout the book, as well as in the author’s note at the end.

I look forward, in future books, to have the relationship between Kat and Hale fleshed out a bit more, as well as a good investigation into the mysterious Romani and his or her ultimate plan.

The sequel, Uncommon Criminals, comes out in June, and in the meantime I plan to read some of the Gallagher Girls books. They look really excellent.

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