Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

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I trace my love of mysteries back to my pre-teen years when I discovered the oh-so clever Nancy Drew. She brought the world of imagination and adventure into a mind ripe and ready for a gutsy, vibrant detective who had her own sports car and didn’t have space in her life for punks, aka criminals.

So, when I read the synopsis of Ally Carter’s Heist Society I thought,

All right! This one’s perfect for me.

Unfortunately, Heist Society didn’t satify my craving for a fun teen mystery/caper, although it was somewhat entertaining.

I admit I’m giving a bare-bones plot here, but it goes like this: Katrina aka “Kat” Bishop enters the world of high stakes theft at the age of three when her parents take her to the Louvre. This trip is not for cultural reasons, unless casing a place comes under the designation of art appreciation—instead, it’s to case the joint. A few years pass and her seventh birthday comes around. This bright and felonious fingered kid travels with her uncle to steal the Crown Jewels.

By the time she’s fifteen, she wants out. She pulls off an impressive, hopefully last, scam to turn her life into something like normal. She schemes her way into the best boarding school in the country. All right then. It’s time to leave the legacy of her family’s business behind. 

The setting: Colgan School, with its perfect grounds and finely manicured world is a place where most of the senior class has its sights set on Ivy league schools.  

Photos of presidents and senators and CEOs still lined the dark-paneled hallway outside the headmaster’s office.

Yes indeed, Colgan’s a place to begin anew, leaving the world of heists and accomplished thefts to become merely a memory of her family’s legacy. The problem from the moment Kat ‘s enigmatic persona fills the last-minute slot on campus are the rumors that grow like fertilized weeds.

Some looked at her perfect posture and cool demeanor, rolled her first name across their tongues and assumed that she was Russian royalty – one of the last of the Romanov’s. 

Then the unthinkable happens on this most esteemed of campuses. The headmaster’s dearly loved 1958 Porsche Speedster, one in mint condition, ends up on top of the fountain in the quad. There it sits “…with water shooting out of its headlights on an unusually warm evening in November.” Framed for a prank she hadn’t committed, Kat is found guilty, is expelled and, twenty minutes later, is on her own.

The plot’s intriguing but the execution of it doesn’t work.

Kat’s expulsion blasts her right back to where she started, but with a dangerous situation calling for her to bring all of her heisting skills to the forefront to sharpen them to a dangerous edge. 

A ruthless mobster, Arturo Taccone, waits for her outside Colgan with an awful ultimatum. His paintings have been stolen and only one person has the unmitigated arrogance and skill to abscond with them, Kat’s father. Get the paintings back or her father’s life will become the payment for Taccone’s  loss.

The story becomes one of a teenage heist gang bent on stealing back said paintings. Their job is to track down the art and pull a heist never before accomplished. Dad needs Kat’s help and she won’t fail him. 

It’s at this point that the story fails to work for me. A cast of characters that, if developed, could have held my interest instead falls flat. There are two good looking and smart guys, Hale and Nick, who clearly would like a relationship with Kat. Couple them with cousin Gabrielle who’s quite beautiful and beguiling and the potential for a great story’s laid out.  

The problem is that the characters simply fall flat. None in this teen-heist gang has dimension.

What they do have are two weeks to find the paintings as well as develop a plan to get them back to Taccone. What they do have are some quirky personalities. And, what they do have is a story that might work well for pre-teens, because the story is all plot and little character development, teens and adults accustomed to more complex young adult fiction will likely be disappointed.

A valid argument can be made that this is the first in a series, with Uncommon Criminals following as the second book. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the series to a middle school kid who loves a quirky storyline. Ally Carter’s story could land a lifetime reader making for a lover of books. 

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