Book Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

ally carter heist society Book Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter


Having now read two of best-selling author Ally Carters books (and with another four or so in the stack by my bed), I have to say that Carter knows exactly what shes doing when it comes to the elevator pitch. These books are high-concept all the way, and its no surprise that theyre being lapped up like they are. The Gallagher Girls series? Harry Potter with girl spies. Heist Society? Oceans Eleven with teen protagonists.

Katrina Bishop (just as a random aside, why is are there so many characters called Kat or some variation thereof?) is three months into her new life, and shes thriving. Its been three months since shes pilfered a Pollock 'or pinched a Picasso, and she doesnt miss the old life one whit.

But as anyone whos seen The Godfather knows, the past has a habit of calling in favours, and soon enough Kat finds herself expelled from school and jetsetting off to Paris, where shes given a task tougher than analysing the Mona Lisas smile.''Arturo Taccone, an art collector of rather dubious moral leanings, is missing a quintet of paintings from his collection, and is convinced that Kats father is to blame. Taccone, being the nice chap he is, essentially threatens to do some cubist-inspired rearranging of facial features should Kat not come up with the goods within a fortnight.

But this task isnt as easy as taking crayons from a baby. The paintings in question have been hidden in the Henley, a gallery whose security is tougher than an over-lacquered canvas, and the only way Kat can ensure her dads safety is to turn her back on her new straight-and-narrow life.

Heist Society'is a delicious romp filled with witty dialogue, sympathetic characters, and larger-than-life nefarious uber-villains. The book is all about twists and intrigue, and while characterisation doesnt get much of a look-in, theres plenty enough action to keep a teen audience captive until the last page. Like the first Gallagher Girls book, Heist Society'introduces its main characters with little more than broad brush-strokes, forcing the reader to be content with mysterious and unelaborated pasts until these are (presumably) touched upon in later books.

While this is a reasonable compromise made in order to keep the plot zooming along, it does make for a bit of talking head syndrome, with the characters really only distinguishable by the fact that theyre given distinctive appearances rather than distinctive personalities. This grates a little when stereotypes are uncritically incorporated and exploited: the evil villain is of course a dark and mysterious foreigner; we have Kats cousin, whose role is little more than to distract men with her looks (which is made creepier by the fact that shes only a young teen); we have the eccentric uncle whose purpose is, as far as I can tell, simply being eccentric.

Kat, however, is well-drawn, and shes refreshingly independent and confidentexcept, of course, when regarding her looks, which is an irritatingly recurrent theme. (What is it with the prevalence of stunning female leads who are convinced that theyre mousy and nondescript?) While she works as part of the (mostly male) group, shes not subsumed by it, which is a relief. I think this is in part due to Carters decision to keep the potential relationship between Kat and Hale (not to mention the mysterious foil Nick, who though a late addition to the book is a character well no doubt see again) limited to awkward tension. Its an effective choice as it allows some stronger characterisation as regards Kat, who faces not a few major choices and turning points throughout the novel. Had the relationship been brought to the fore, I think these elements would have been obscured somewhat.

While its a well-worn trope, Kats ambivalence regarding living a normal life versus capitalising on her skills and family background is an interesting one, and Carter does a good job of making her protagonists indecision firmly believable. This element to me, rather than the slightly awkwardly incorporated moral regarding the war-time theft of 'both art and identify, was what elevated this book for me.

Like the first Gallagher Girls novel, Heist Society'has very much an introductory feel to it, although plot-wise it stands much more strongly on its own. Still, while the main plot arc is neatly resolved were left with plenty of questions regarding the identities and motivations of the various characters (just who is Vasily Romani? What is Nick really up to? Whats the deal with Uncle Eddie? Whats going to happen to Kats dad?). Youd have to be a rather incurious type indeed not to want to know what happens. Its rather fortunate, then, that I have the second in the series sitting right by the bed.

''Rating: ????? (very good)

With thanks to Hachette Australia for the review copy

'Purchase Heist Society from Amazon | Book Depository UK | Book Depository USA

See also our review of Id Tell You I Love You but Then Id Have to Kill You

See also our review of Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy

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