nicholas j johnson, chasing the ace

Just imagine my delight and relief when, some six weeks after moving house (a decision I always regret), the Optus dude finally turned up at my house and delivered upon us some sweet, glorious internet. Now I will no longer be missing all the best memes and scandalous literary gossip. On the upside, life without the internet reminded me about that other thing I used to do before I got broadband, this odd, page-based thing called readings. Despite still working and ensuring the kiddo was fed and watered daily, I managed to smash through a pretty decent pile of books as well.

Nicholas J. Johnson’s Chasing the Ace is a book I’d had my eye on for a while, because I do love a conman movie and I haven’t read enough books on cons that don’t also involve endless other traumatic crimes. In this, pimply youth Joel has a passion for swindles and a trick up his sleeve – after a mishandled arrest when he was younger, he is now essentially invincible when it comes to police, who avoid him like the plague. He’s also determined to become the protege of skilled conman Richard Mordecai, a man almost at retirement age and just bored enough to agree to take Joel under his wing. Using Richard’s expertise at understanding people and Joel’s expertise at technology, they decide two fraudsters are better than one – but will everything go pear-shaped? PROBABLY, and the delicious thing is that you’ll have the rug pulled out from under you constantly, which is what I love about the genre. I always forget that I’m constantly being tricked and slap myself on the forehead all the time.

This is one of the few crime books that actually feels like it could happen in reality, because the characters are much more normal than most movies of the type – Joel’s a bit annoying, his girlfriend is a normal person instead of Margot Robbie, and Richard’s pompous – and the heists they’re looking at aren’t as Oceans-Eleven-vast as robbing Crown Casino. It’s set in my beloved Melbourne and therefore felt a little bit alarmingly real, though it does retain an entertaining veneer of ridiculous at the same time. Quite fun – and I still don’t know what to believe.