"Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners.
There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed.
Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.
Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules." (from Goodreads)
Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Kat and Hale: I found Kat insufferably stuck-up at the beginning of Uncommon Criminals. Her ego's inflated from accomplishing all of these jobs that give her an adrenaline high, and all I could think was, "Pride goeth before a fall..." It makes me cringe when characters act like that! Hale also bugged me initially because he was all cranky and grumpy at Kat all the time. Admittedly, he probably had some right to be, but it wasn't fun. However, then she ends up getting conned and realizes she's not the world's most genius, undefeatable thief, and is humbled...which leads to Hale becoming nicer and their relationship turning more amicable, thankfully.
Still, the Kat/Hale dynamic frustrated me more in this book. They just couldn't seem to get their act together! Hale wasn't as charming as in the first book, either. In Heist Society he had this cocky, confident attitude, whereas in this one he was always worrying and saying things like, "We don't have to do this!" And then Kat would reply, "Yeah, but I want to!" They seemed to have this same argument several times throughout the book. Eventually, they do kind of resolve things, as Kat recognizes how important it is to have people on her side, helping her out. But things were tense between them most of the time (and not in a good way), and I wanted more romance. Plus, I found it a little annoying how Hale was always telling Kat, "You can't do that!" Yes, Kat does take risks, but they're all thieves...it kind of comes with the territory.
Also, I don't know if there was as much soul-searching going on here as there was in Heist Society. Or perhaps Kat just annoyed me a little more, with her inability to make a decision in terms of her emotions and love life. She just seemed to keep wavering back and forth between "Hale" and "thieving" and not seeing that she could have both in her life.
Everyone else: We get to see the whole team again here, but we still don't get to know some of them that well (a complaint of mine about the first in the series, Heist Society.) I liked Gabrielle's feisty attitude, and I also enjoyed meeting Charlie, this gruff but lovable hermit in the mountains. Nick wasn't my favourite character in the first one, but he's kind of grown on me — he's a good guy to have around.
Maggie was a well-written addition to the cast of characters. She was a really horrible character — she totally used people and enjoyed it, very manipulative. Spoilers, highlight to read: Although she seemed pretty clever to begin with, at the end she was just rather pathetic. I think she could have been a creepier villain than the Mafia dude from Heist Society, but she didn't turn out to be that evil. Still, in a way I prefer her as a villain, because she was such a low, underhanded user.
Uncommon Criminals was a lot more creative in structure than its predecessor. I thought it would follow the standard pattern with the heist at the end, but instead the first heist occurs pretty soon on, and then there are all these new twists and turns throughout as obstacles pile up. I enjoyed all the surprises and found it less predictable than Heist Society. Pacing-wise I think it moved a little faster than the first one, too.
However, there are some parts in the climactic scenes where the reader is led to believe one thing when really, that's not the case at all. While I'm okay with that most of the time, it has to be written in such a way that it's not actually lying to the reader about the character's intentions/emotions. I understand that the author is trying to make the reader believe that this is why a character is doing something. But if it's not why they're doing something, you shouldn't say that it is. If it's a mere matter of a reader interpreting the words a certain way, that's acceptable. But when you're telling the reader "he was angry", when he wasn't really, then you're just lying to the reader — and that's not cool. A few instances in Uncommon Criminals could have been written more cleverly to avoid this.
This may be one of those books that you have to read a few times to figure out exactly what happened, because the ending really confused me. I wish there'd been more explanation — I like being tricked in a book as long as I figure out how it happened! And honestly, I was reading through pretty carefully, and I was still left with a whole lot of questions. I suppose there could be several explanations, but I'd like to know which one the author intended.
The writing style was basically the same as in Heist Society. Every chapter starts out sort of slow and then builds. Since I brushed up on the first book before I read this one, I was pretty much used to that. The spy talk is well-done, just like the previous book; Ally Carter writes like she's part of an inner circle of experts who know all about agencies, spies, and detectives, so it feels authentic. I enjoyed all the names given to the different types of heist methods, like "Cinderella" or "Mary Poppins" or "Anne Boleyn."
Final verdict: 3.5 shooting stars. In some ways it impressed me more than Heist Society, particularly in terms of having a different, less predictable, pattern of plot points. However, in other ways — the relationship, the "lying" to the reader, the somewhat abrupt ending that lacked a satisfying explanation — it bugged me.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher for review.
This book counts towards my goal for the Just Contemporary reading challenge.