Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society #2) by Ally Carter

uncommoncriminalsKat and the team are back in Uncommon Criminals (Disney-Hyperion 2011), the second installment of Ally Carter’s Heist Society series. Now that Kat has established her line of thievery as a noble “Robin Hood” sort, she can’t resist when a kind, elderly lady approaches her, begging Kat to right a decades-old wrong.

Constance Miller beseeches Kat to find and steal back an ancient gem, called the Cleopatra emerald, which Constance claims her parents rightfully discovered as archaeologists, but was stolen by their conniving young assistant. Kat rounds up the team – the handsome, wealthy outsider, W. W. Hale the fifth; her gorgeous and talented cousin, Gabrielle; computer genius Simon, and the notorious Bagshaw brothers, with all their British bulk and banter, to successfully steal the Cleopatra emerald and replace it with their uncle’s forgery. However, this is only where the story begins.

Legend has it, the ancient stone is cursed. And Kat’s willing to believe it when she realizes she’s been conned. The old woman wasn’t the real Constance Miller, but a thief named Margaret, who once knew – and conned – her uncles. Margaret intends to pass off the Cleopatra emerald as its long-lost twin gem, the Antony emerald, and sell it to the highest bidder…but not if Kat has anything to say about it. Despite her wounded ego and the deep-seated fear that she is destined to become like Margaret someday, Kat rounds up her teen team once more to fix her egregious mistake.

This book was even better than the first! The plot was more complex, the new characters more ambiguous and interesting, and I loved the angle of ancient Egyptian artifacts. I am also now beginning to  see why Carter wrote this series in third person instead of first, since certain scenes are told by Interpol or the bad guys’ POV, like a Dan Brown novel, which works for this genre. I was also happy with the return of Nick and his mother who works for Interpol; I find them fascinating characters and I like the tension they add to the story.

The only thing I wished – which I learned after finishing Book 1 – was that the paintings and artifacts named in these books were real. I would’ve loved to learn some art history, or if the author could’ve used a real stone, like the Hope Diamond. However, the artists (such as Monet) and historical figures (Antony & Cleopatra) are of course real, and I do love the lore Carter created about the twin emeralds. I was fascinated to begin to see Kat’s seams and weaknesses in this installment. I seriously cannot wait to see what Book 3 holds in store!

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