Only thing is, all this is a lie. Will has conned his way into the school and he thinks his cover story is pretty safe until another student - also a con artist - confronts him. They quickly realise that the school is only big enough for one grifter and settle on a bet: the first to con the school’s obnoxious, meathead bully out of $50,000 gets to stay.
There were a number of parallels between Con Academy and the 1988 film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: two con artists, one who’s the old hand and one who’s the new kid on the block, decide that this town ain’t big enough for the both of them and strike up a wager. The first of them to con the mark out of $50,000 gets to stay. I’m not sure if the author intended this to be a re-write or if this is just a coincidence, but either way Con Academy is funny and exciting enough in its own right (sadly, though, there’s no Ruprecht).
The pace is pretty breakneck - there are plenty of twists and turns, bluffs, double-bluffs, betrayal and revenge. The book doesn’t really go in for introspection and ponderings on the nature of the universe, but that was just fine by me because I was well in the mood for a snappy, fun read and this definitely fit the bill. I had to suspend my disbelief on a number of occasions, but no more so than in Ocean’s Eleven or pretty much any action film ever made, and there was also a nice revelation at the end that even a seasoned twist-spotter like me didn’t see coming.
It’s not rolling-on-the-floor funny, but the narrative is witty and sharp and I really liked Will as an MC. His back story was great and for a plot-based story, he actually developed plenty over the course of the book.
I would have liked to know more about Andrea because I really liked her too. And Gatsby - for a while I thought she was just going to be someone shoehorned in to provide a bit of romantic interest, but the romance is barely-there and she really came into her own as a character.
As a baddie, Brandt Rush is almost ridiculously evil. He literally has no redeeming features and I guess that this makes it easier for us as readers to root for Will and Andrea when they’re trying to fleece him, but I wanted to see something, anything that would have turned him a bit more human.
Overall, I thought this was a fun read and I’ll be looking out for other books by this author.
I received a copy of Con Academy in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Houghton Miffin Harcourt and Netgalley.