City of Scoundrels (A Counterfeit Lady Novel)

Written by Victoria Thompson
Review by Fiona Alison

Lawyer Gideon Bates is visited by Corporal Tom Preston, who wishes to draft a will in favour of his new wife, Rose, before he ships out for WWI. Tom is a one-third silent partner in a shoe factory run primarily by his disagreeable and greedy brother, Fred. Tom has married in secret, knowing his brother would disapprove, and Tom confides that he believes his brother is profiteering by making shoddy product for the army and becoming very rich in the process. He will not easily part company with his ill-gotten gains. When Gideon learns of Tom’s death and that Fred is determined to prevent the pregnant Rose from receiving a penny, he arranges a meeting with her. Walking in upon a surprise attack on Rose, during which the new will is stolen, Gideon offers protection. His fiancée Elizabeth once again seeks the help of her disreputable family, primarily her father, the Old Man, the most successful scam artist in NYC, arguably the whole country! Together the grifter team conjures up a very complex sting operation (I had to reread parts) to relieve Fred Preston of a great deal of money. “Redistribution of wealth”, the Old Man calls it.

I will reveal nothing else about this ingenious plot for fear of introducing spoilers, but suffice it to say this is a great read, fast-paced, dialogue-driven, chock-full of action, and with a huge cast of characters, none of whom are who they appear to be. My only niggle is that, being third in a series, it’s hard to fully grasp Elizabeth’s con-woman-turned-lady status. I recommend beginning with the first book, City of Lies. A well-executed Robin Hood tale.