In Perfect Scoundrels (Disney/Hyperion 2013) by Ally Carter, teenage master thief, Kat Bishop, is left hanging (literally. There’s a zip line involved) in the middle of a job in Argentina when her boyfriend, billionaire W.W. Hale V, gets a call that changes everything. His beloved grandmother — the only family member who ever really understood him — has died and surprisingly left the whole Hale empire to him. Soon Hale is acting cold and distant and is sucked back into the world he was so desperate to run away from. Kat’s not sure how to help him, especially when she learns that his grandmother’s will might have been forged in a nefarious scheme to steal the Hale family fortune. To figure out what’s going on and stop the possible thief, Kat gathers her “family” (Gabrielle, Simon, the Bagshaws, Nick, Uncle Eddie, her dad, and more) to help save Hale’s. However, by saving her boyfriend’s company she could lose him to that fancy-pants world forever. It’s quite the dilemma.
As with the first 2.5 books in the series, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Perfect Scoundrels. I have a few minor quibbles (and one major one), but overall I really loved it. Here are my somewhat scattered thoughts, in no particular order:
- Though Kat is still the POV character, this book is really about Hale. For one thing, instead of just being the charming sidekick/love interest who occasionally gets irritated when Kat puts herself in danger, this time he’s the mark. The erratic, grief-stricken mark who occasionally lapses into ALL-CAPS HARRY mode. It’s nice to see more vulnerable sides to the character.
- Speaking of Hale, I remember Ally Carter’s twitter feed being all aflutter about promised shirtless scenes in this book, which I found hilarious because he’s a literary character. It’s not like you actually get to see his bare chest! Is that what the kids today are into: brief mentions of shirtlessness?
- We don’t get to find out Hale’s formal first name, but we do find out what his family calls him and it’s AWESOME. No wonder he insists on going by his last name.
- Carter does a nice job of subtly (and not so subtly) contrasting Hale’s selfish, stuck-up family with Kat’s warm and loyal one. And I like it when stories support the idea that family formed by choice is just as meaningful as a family formed by blood.
- I loved meeting more of Kat’s extended family. I won’t spoil who pops up, but there are some neat surprises.
- We finally get the whole story of how Kat and Hale met. It’s adorable, y’all.
- Though corporate crime and espionage is undoubtably more prevalent in the real world, it’s just not as sexy as art or jewel theft. Perfect Scoundrels makes up for it by making it personal and targeting one of our beloved characters, but still.
- My favorite part of any of these books is when the characters are planning a job and throwing out the names of cons like “Cat in the Cradle” and “Where’s Waldo?” and rejecting them because they aren’t classic violinists or Hamish is not allowed back into Morocco or whatever. They never explain any of them because the characters are all professional thieves and would already know, but the fun comes from imagining just what each con entails.
- Two cons that actually do get used are the “Basil E. Frankweiler” and the “Anastasia.” Anyone with a general knowledge of classic children’s literature or Russian history (or animated films from the 90s) can figure out the basics of the cons, but the execution is a lot of fun.
- We don’t use the word scoundrels enough these days. It’s such a fun word to say.
- I think the ending is wrapped up a bit too quickly. You don’t want to bog down the ending with too much exposition, but a bit more explanation about how they gathered the evidence on the bad guy would be nice. I’m trying not to spoil, so is that vague enough?
- And here’s my major quibble with the story: there are a few times in the story where Kat reacts in ways that someone who knows the whole plan would not react. I get that in con and heist stories, the writers want to withhold some details about the plan so that there can be some surprises for the audience. However, when the reader goes back over the con, and they will, you have to make sure that the characters’ actions and emotions are all in service of the con. In other words, you can’t have anything in story that’s only serving to trick the audience and NOT the marks in the story. There are several times when in her inner thoughts, Kat expresses alarm or sadness about events that she would KNOW are fake. It definitely annoyed me and could have really pissed me off if I hadn’t already liked the author and the series so much.
- And to end on a happier note, at one point Uncle Eddie gives the thief equivalent of the “in my day we walked to school, uphill, both-ways, in the snow, barefoot” speech and it’s GREAT.
Though I have a few issues, Perfect Scoundrels is a good addition to the Heist Society series. It’s a standalone series so you could certainly jump right in with this one, but I encourage you to check out the first two books because they’re a lot fun. And I can’t wait to see what Kat and her crew steal next.