In Uncommon Criminals, Ally Carter’s sequel to the fun and well-written Heist Society, fifteen-year-old Katarina Bishop is back for another heist. This time, she’s been directed by “Visily Romani” to take a break from returning priceless stolen works of art to their rightful owners to steal the famous Cleopatra emerald, which had been stolen from an excavation in Egypt many years ago. Visily Romani’s messenger tells Kat that the emerald will be given back to an Egyptian museum, and Kat is all too willing to undertake the job, even though the emerald is rumored to be cursed and impossible to steal. After all, even her Uncle Eddie wasn’t able to steal it when he attempted it years before.
But Kat is smart and a very, very good thief, and she sets in motion a heist that is sure to work. She has Hale with her, of course, as well as Gabrielle and eventually the Bagshaw brothers and Nick. Things aren’t what they seem with the pseudonymous Visily Romani and his messenger, though, and the book quickly takes a turn – Kat and her crew must steal the emerald once more, and also exact a little revenge on someone who conned them.
I really enjoyed Heist Society. It’s the kind of popcorn book that I’ve always loved – a fun, fast-paced story, snappy dialogue, sarcastic characters who banter with each other endlessly, and a promise that everything will turn out alright in the end. Nothing about it was terribly realistic, but that’s not really why I read most genre fiction anyway. So, I was excited to get my hands on its sequel and I sped through it in a day. I enjoyed it a lot, but I had a few gripes.
Uncommon Criminals, while a fun follow-up, feels too slight. Events happen so quickly that there’s hardly any time for the reader to process them, making the twists and turns not as impactful as they should have been. The crew from the first book are all back, but only Kat and Hale really have any development. The Bagshaw brothers, Gabrielle, and Nick all make token appearances, but it felt they were only included because it was expected. Gabrielle, who turned out to be a surprisingly complex character in Heist Society, is here reduced to comic relief.
This is not to say that Uncommon Criminals wasn’t a fun read. It does have its moments. Carter gives us more tidbits into certain characters: Uncle Eddie’s background is illuminated a bit more, Kat and Hale’s relationship grows, and the history of the thieving families is expanded upon (very slightly). The central plotline is certainly entertaining, albeit a bit too breakneck for my taste. I often complain that thrillers or spy novels written for adults are too long-winded, but Uncommon Criminals could have taken a page (or maybe a hundred pages) from them and given the reader more: more time to understand the heist, more insight into the secondary characters, more of that witty banter and narrative style so prevalent in Heist Society.
Overall, this is a definite recommend for fans of the first novel, but Carter can do better.
Copy borrowed from my local library.