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Femme bookend: Thriller with a sting in the tail

Wheels within wheels?

Wheels within ball-bearings within the wheels within wheels. Everyone's scamming everyone else in this Gold Dagger-nominated thriller.

So this is the book to buy for myself?

Heavens, no. This is the book to buy for your boyfriend. He'll identify with hapless husband Neil, who's bound and determined to prove himself worthy of the daughter of the Earl of Somewhere or Other.

A good aim

But not one Neil is likely to hit. He's hiding from the wife the fact that his uninsured comic book shop is knee-deep in filthy water, and he was minding a friend's stock of priceless memorabilia at the time of the flood.

No way out, then?

Until along comes a conman with smooth chat and a dazzling now-you-see-it plan. Suddenly it looks as if Neil's found a way out.

Conman? Oh no

Neil has it in the blood: his old dad is serving a stretch after he left the wedding to knock off a quick robbery. So when the conman offers to teach him the trade . . .

He doesn't?

He does. "The first lesson is free," says the slithery teacher, and because Neil fears his wife's disillusion, he goes down the slippery slope.

A one-man conman?

There's a cast of thousands: an Irish developer called O'Shea who is trying to offload his Manhattan property, a suavely seductive moll, Neil's old mucker from his college days.

Can't he help?

Old mucker Andrew, Neil and Jane (now Mrs Neil) were inseparable in college. Neil, surprising himself, got the girl, even though beautiful eco-warrior Andrew, desired of all, was writing poems to a speirbhean called J.

And now?

Now Andrew isn't so green any more -- he's corporate man incarnate. And Neil is running a shop full of campy Batman posters, selling one-off photos of Stan Lee, knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Including his soul?

Oh yes, this is another version of Faust all right. From the moment Neil offers far too low a price for a valuable picture, he's damned. The devil is in the detail.

And the boyfriend will like this?

If the Gold Dagger committee are right, he'll love it.


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