Review: Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter

Review: Uncommon Criminals by Ally CarterUncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Series: Heist Society #2
Published by Hachette Children's Books, Hyperion
Pages: 352
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Heist Society, Perfect Scoundrels

Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life: Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long — and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous, and that is . . . the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all, she has her best friend — the gorgeous Hale — and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses and realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.

Thoughts: After the success of Heist Society, I really wasn’t sure how Ally Carter could continue with Katarina’s story. Turns out, Katarina wasn’t sure either.

Unlike Heist Society, which set out to establish the verse and introduce all the fantastic characters (all while carrying out a heist, of course), Uncommon Criminals starts off with characters without a purpose. Kat and her crew have peaked as teenagers: if you’ve just carried out the greatest heist of your career… what do you do next?

That’s not a question anyone wants to answer, but it’s what Kat ends up spending the whole book working out. She also gets knocked down a few pegs: it is rather easy to develop an ego when you really are the smartest person in the room (no matter how nice you may be). And along with all this character development, there is con after con, heist after heist – all of them as clever and entertaining as I’ve come to expect from Carter.

I was also happy that the entire team was reunited. I knew they would be, I knew that they would become a team out of their experience in Heist Society – but it was lovely to see how it was done. I was also overjoyed to see Nick back with the team – I heart Nick the way most people love Hale. He was one of the few characters who wasn’t really welcomed by the gang (other than Kat), so fitting him into the book required a rather ingenious stretch of imagination.

The only thing I wasn’t quite in love with? Hale’s storyline. To be perfectly frank, I’ve never been his biggest fan (don’t shoot me people) as I never really understood why he was there in the first place. So having him sulk about in Uncommon Criminals was just rather tedious. Enough to drag down the rest of the book, to be completely honest.

Bottom line? Great follow-up to the excellent Heist Society, but it didn’t blow me away the way the first book did.

Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Review: Heist Society by Ally CarterHeist Society by Ally Carter
Series: Heist Society #1
Published by Hachette Children's Books, Hyperion
Pages: 352
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
Add to Goodreads
Rating:
Also in this series: Uncommon Criminals, Perfect Scoundrels

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her 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 her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's art collection has been stolen, and he wants it returned. 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 (very crooked) history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Thoughts: Even though this is the first Ally Carter book I’ve ever read, I’ve been a fan of hers for eons. I like her blog, her twitter and, just, the fact that she went out and pitched “I’ve got a book about teenage thieves a-la-Ocean’s-Eleven, but with a proper gender distribution” to a publisher. And then I loved the fact that people went out and bought it.

So, when I picked up Heist Society, I knew I would enjoy it. What I did not expect was the four-hour reading marathon that would ensue as soon as I picked it up.

I didn’t just “like” it. I loved it.

Ally Carter has a writing style that is deceptively simple. She jumps from country to country, character to character, scene to scene, with the skill of a professional storyteller. She manages to weave in the main character’s complex back story (complete with heists, a dead parent and billionaire BFFs) into an already-tricky heist plot. Ally Carter shows and doesn’t tell. Colour me impressed.

As for her characters, all I can say is: L-O-V-E. I was skeptical at first that there would be any emotional depth to this book… but there is. Lots of it. The main character is a tough, smart, savvy girl, but she is still damaged in a way that you can relate to. She’s not perfect, but she’s is trying really damn hard. I absolutely adored her.

Of course, the most important part of this novel is the heist. It had to be superb; it had to be believable; and it had to be pulled off by teenagers. A tall order, but one that Ally Carter met with flying colours. I won’t give anything away, but suffice to say that she succeeded!

Bottom line? Heist Society is a smart, slick, and surprisingly-moving novel. Pick it up!

Great for fans of: Leverage (TV) and White Collar (TV).

Note about the UK edition: There were a number of unfortunate typos in my copy. Usually this really pisses me off, but I was too distracted by the genius of the writing to fuss too much. Hopefully this will be something that’s cleared up in the next printing.

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