Review: Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society #2) by Ally Carter
Katarina Bishop is known as The Girl Who Robbed the Henley to criminals worldwide. Ever since her infamous heist, Kat has not only been living the life -- she's been living it alone, restoring priceless pieces confiscated by the Nazis during WWII to their rightful owners. Kat is the most talented teen con in the world and perfectly capable of running these jobs solo, yet everyone in her life sees this as an act of betrayal. So when Kat agrees to recover a cursed gem that hasn't seen the light of day in over thirty years, her old crew is more than ready to do what no con has done before: steal the Cleopatra Emerald. But Kat isn't the only thief hunting the Cleopatra, and none of the usual rules apply -- because the thief they're up against wrote the book on every con they know.
In Uncommon Criminals, Ally Carter once again brings the nonstop action and mind-blowing ingenuity that made Heist Society such a stellar read. Kat's crew is up to its usual antics, with the Bagshaw brothers wreaking havoc grenade-launcher style, Gabrielle turning heads and Simon doing something snazzy with a computer. Carter makes the life of a teenage con look glamorous, while still walking the fine line of moral acceptability with her heroine's Robin Hood-like ways. Kat isn't in it for the money. She reclaims artifacts stolen from their rightful owners (many taken by the Nazis during WWII) and sends them on their way home. It's a hard line to walk, and the novel takes a fascinating look at both the dangers and the delights of vigilantism.
Uncommon Criminals still features the snappy repartee and outrageous antics that make every page laugh-out-loud funny. However, the relationship between Kat and Hale has grown angsty. The young lovebirds dance around each other tantalizingly, but never grant readers a final moment of gratification. Their hot-and-cold tension costs them the spark they possessed in book one, and that, combined with a major mistake, makes Kat self-conscious in a way that doesn't mesh with the girl we know and love. Kat from Heist Society was a fierce and self-reliant leader, whereas this novel forces her to question her own sufficiency and skills. While those are both valid coming-of-age questions, they seem to detract from Kat's signature swagger.
The adventures in this installment are even more incredible than the first, with the teens accomplishing cons that have eluded even the best thief in the world. Unfortunately, the tricks in this story were almost too unbelievable, and never allowed readers to see clearly the carefully placed puzzle pieces that pulled the con together --- requiring a major suspension of disbelief that lessened some of the fun. Part of the intrigue of Heist Society was the teens' ability to pull off a major con because of their very youth -- it was believable even though it was incredible, coming together with a final flourish and neat bow. Uncommon Criminals lacks the plausibility that allowed readers to live vicariously through Kat and her crew.
Nonetheless, Carter's style is perfectly suited to this tale of a cursed emerald and a timeless love. The tone of the novel flows like a recounted legend, and is peppered with the spectacular history of both the Cleopatra Emerald and the Bishop family. Carter has quite a few surprises up her sleeve, and readers will find themselves shocked time and time again as even the most preposterous impossibility becomes reality. Uncommon Criminals is a fast-paced thrill ride that allows readers to experience firsthand the high of Getting Away With It.
Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this novel at BEA. This did not affect my review in any way.