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    Review of MATCHSTICK MEN by Eric Garcia

    Villard Books, 2002

    When obsessive compulsive con-man Roy learns that he has a daughter from a long abandoned marriage, it changes his life. Despite objections from his partner, Frankie, Roy insists on including his daughter on some of their scams, teaching her the tricks of the game. Frankie resists, reminding Roy that this violates Roy's rules, but Roy is transformed. Maybe he'll even turn over a new leaf, get a real job, and join life as a mark rather than as a grifter.

    Author Eric Garcia does a fine job describing the cons and making Roy sympathetic even as he systematically steals thousands of dollars from people who can ill-afford to lose their money. Roy's occasional attacks of ethics, and his growing affection for his daughter, as well as his emotional problems with obsessive compulsion disorder give him a degree of complexity.

    The key characteristic of a good con is that the mark doesn't see it coming. Similarly, the key to a good con novel is that the reader doesn't see the gottcha coming. Readers may fault MATCHSTICK MEN in this. The plot may twist and turn, but the destination is telegraphed early. Few fans of the genre are likely to be surprised by the ending of this novel.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 12/29/02

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