GUEST REVIEW: “Uncommon Criminals,” Ally Carter
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Title: Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society #2)
Author: Ally Carter
Published: June, 2011 by Disney Hyperion
Pages: 298
Rating: ★★★½☆ 
Purchase: The Book Depository

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.

Final Thoughts:
This is actually the first sequel I’ve read in years—perhaps ever (is The Odyssey considered the sequel to The Iliad?). It hadn’t been that long since I read Heist Society, and so I was happy to find the second book in the series, Uncommon Criminals, available at the local council library. I still felt the residual itch to jump back into the world of Kat Bishop and her teen-criminal wonder crew, and though it did seem to have a tiny fleck of “sequel-syndrome”, it was still a pleasant read.

Interpret the word pleasant as you wish; I think it is the best word to describe it. Ally Carter’s style of storytelling is one that I find easy to get into, and I can just read and read without effort. Also the plot itself is engaging enough that the threat of encroaching boredom is nonexistent. If you like Kat (which you should), and stick with her, you’ll love where she takes you with all her scheming, conning, and even, as shown in Uncommon Criminals, her mistakes. It is always nice to have a character who makes mistakes and has cautious doubts, but not in that common YA main girl has no self esteem kind of way. Rather we start with our heroine, Kat, who is still unconsciously on her high-horse after the Henley job from the first book, and who has to learn that she is still human and fallible—and it’s either the easy or the hard way.

Besides this there is also some focus on Kat and Hale as a potential item, and this sort of takes over from the theme of family which was found all through the first book. I’m not sure if it held my interest as much. It is mostly Hale not liking how up herself Kat has become, and the love triangle between Kat, Hale, and Nick, doesn’t really count anymore because it is quite clear not even Kat loves Nick in that way. The romantic ‘struggle’ was real enough and the characters tried hard to be mature about it all, but this held little importance on the overall plot of the book.

The story itself pits criminal against criminal as Kat comes up against a rivalling con-artist who continues to outsmart our heroine (I have to hand it to Ally Carter, I love her villains). We are sent to many different parts of the world (though fewer than what I would call a ‘round-the-world’ sort of caper), and I had a niggling feeling while reading the book that I had seen it all before, and it perhaps felt a little episode-of-the-week. Since it is a continuing series, perhaps this isn’t really that much of a negative. Would you call the James Bond franchise repetitive just because there’s always a villain mastermind to defeat? But I also found a problem with the rest of the crew, who all seemed to lack any growth: they really only turn up out of the blue to help Kat, make a joke, and then leave the room once they’re finished.

Perhaps the point of being a continuing franchise can explain it all away, but for the second book in the series, this allowed Uncommon Criminals to lack a teensy bit of the WOW factor that got me hooked in Heist Society. Regardless . . . just try and stop me from continuing the series.

Recommended to:
People who love spy novels with excellently written villains, and who won’t mind some romance invading the territory.