Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Review: Heist Society - Ally Carter

Extent: 352 pages
Publisher: Orchard
Pub Date: 1st September 2011

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled 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.

There’s something really engaging about stories where the heroes are the bad guys. I especially love heist films and thought something like that could never work in a book but oh how wrong I was! Ally Carter has taken a heist plotline and made me even happier by adding one brilliant element – a female lead.

Heist Society is not exactly a serious story, but then life would be pretty dull if it was full of worthy books. Kat is a fantastic heroine: feisty, intelligent, cool, independent, strong… If I was ever to turn to crime, Kat would be my role model. I always thought bad guys make the best characters and this book is stuffed full of them. The story hits you from the first page, there’s no hanging around getting to know everyone and their surroundings, you’re just whipped off into an engaging tale and I really love this as it’s fast-paced and keeps you on your toes – just like the life of your average crime family really.

This story is reminiscent of Gone In Sixty Seconds, only with paintings and teenagers. The relationship between Kat and her father is really interesting, she’s the only one motivated to help him despite the fact that she doesn’t owe him anything, in fact he already owes her a lot. I love the way the roles reverse and Kat’s mission in this book is to protect her father, although he doesn’t really deserve it. She is the one to take control of the situation, despite being a young and relatively inexperienced member of the family and that’s what makes her such an engaging character.

As the story progresses, you start to get the feeling that you’re not aware of everything that’s going on. This is the element I thought wasn’t possible in a book as obviously you have to hide the final clever plan of the heist or there’s no real brilliant ending. It’s harder to hide things from the reader than it is from a viewer in a film because the reader is far more involved with the characters, looking at what is happening through their eyes rather than as an external observer. Ally Carter has really mastered the skill of disclosing only so much to a reader but at the same making the reader feel like they know exactly what is going on. Then, when you get the end and you think you’ve figured out what’s going to happen, everything turns out differently and far more cleverly than you thought. It’s genius! The plot that you thought was so simple becomes nested within layers of complexity that keeps you guessing right to the last page.

This is definitely one of those books to have on hand if you want something light-hearted yet clever, with fiery characters and a fast-paced plot. I will definitely be reading more Ally Carter in the future!


  1. I'm glad you read this one! I absolutely adore it, as you know. I totally agree that Ally Carter is so great at plot twists and mixing things up just when you think you know what's going to happen. You should definitely read Uncommon Criminals--it's just as good! Great review!

  2. I really want to read this now! Fantastic review. I love Ally Carter, you should definitely read more of her work.