Janet Evanovich, the prolific author of the popular Stephanie Plum series has struck again. Not satisfied with producing the twentieth book in the Plum series this year, she has now teamed up with Monk screenwriter Lee Goldberg to start a new series featuring FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare and international con artist Nick Fox, starting with this book, The Heist. I had previously only read one Evanovich book, Wicked Business (part of her Lizzy and Diesel series) and found it to be gently amusing, but too maddeningly insubstantial to really lose myself in the story. Although a bit disappointed, I thought at the time that I should probably give her books another go, and the start of a new series seemed the perfect place to do so.
Kate O’Hare is a woman on a mission. Recruited into the FBI after leaving the navy, she is a tough and determined agent, with only one thing on her mind – to track down and bring to justice the renowned con artist Nick Fox. Fox, for his part, is a charming man and natural scammer who has long since made himself spectacularly rich from his chosen career, but keeps on setting up audacious jobs for the thrill of pulling them off. Five years and several lucrative scams later, Kate eventually gets her man when he attempts to steal a famous jewel from an art museum in San Francisco – only for him to escape shortly afterwards from the three US Marshalls who are escorting him to court and go on the run.
Now officially off the case and reassigned to investigate DVD piracy, Kate nonetheless manages to track down Fox again and sets about bringing him in. Nick seems unruffled by this, as he has just pulled off the biggest play of them all – convincing Kate’s boss and the deputy director of the FBI to let him go free and use his not insubstantial skills to help bring in other criminals where more conventional techniques have failed. As the only person to successfully capture him, it is Kate’s role to work with Fox and make sure he does as he is told. Hunter and hunted are now bound to work together undercover, bringing wanted men to justice whilst maintaining to the outside world that Nick is still running and Kate is still tracking him down. Their first target is a very topical crook: a thieving banker who has stolen half a billion dollars from savers and investors, and fled into hiding abroad.
This is a set-up that potentially offers great possibilities for entertaining and imaginative books. While not a stunningly original premise, there appears to be little else like it being produced as novels at the moment, and that in itself makes it stand out from the crowd (the bright lime green jacket also helps). Nick was a regular charming, handsome con man and made little impression on me, but Kate has the makings of a really good character. She has the standard set of attributes that all fictional women in such roles must have – pretty, sexy, toned body, smart, good shot – but she also has real-world flaws: she snores, dresses badly, is a messy eater who continually spills things on herself, and has stomach problems from the appalling diet she eats. I would question whether anyone whose “most common dining companion is Colonel Sanders” would have “flawless skin”, but on the whole Kate is rather more a real women that most female detectives I’ve read about or watched on TV.
I found The Heist to be a much better read that Wicked Business, and while it was fairly evident that a screenwriter was involved – the plot read like a Sandra Bullock movie: I think if you dropped her character from Miss Congeniality into Catch Me If You Can, you would be pretty close to getting the tone of this book – it was much more involving and better written as a whole. A couple of patches of clunky dialogue aside, this was a light, funny and pretty entertaining book, making it a perfect summer holiday read.
The Heist by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Published by Headline, June 2013
With thanks to the publishers for sending this review copy.
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