In this debut novel, the appearance of old enemies throws a master thief’s heist into jeopardy.
The unusually named Lesson Day runs a successful crew of thieves. It’s mostly a family affair, including his father, Tha Pope; his brother, Learn; and a couple of trusted associates. They’ve pulled off some big jobs in the past, and Lesson has already earned enough money to move his family into a ritzy suburb outside of Detroit. Now, Lesson has his sights on a haul of truly epic proportions: robbing Walmart on Cyber Monday, right at the end of the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Lesson figures that if they do it right, he and his team can walk away with almost $5 million in cash. Such a score would be enough for the crew to leave the high-stakes world of heists behind. Lesson himself has plans for investing in real estate in Detroit’s revitalized downtown. He has mapped out the whole lick down to the last detail: security systems, armored trucks, time windows. But as Tha Pope warns Lesson, no lick ever goes just as planned. While Lesson and the crew are in mid heist, a giant wrench is thrown into the works when two old foes—Savage Keith and Juman—return to town. They’ve been in exile in Ohio ever since they tried to murder Lesson years ago, but they’ve come home to kidnap the thief’s mother, Rocci, and his wife, Ashanti. Can Lesson pull off the heist, save his family, and keep everyone out of jail? It may prove too tall an order for even him. “You wanna start upgrading,” his father warned him before the heist. “But remember this, Lesson, when you upgrade, no matter if you win or lose, you take the team up with you, or down with you.”
In this series opener, Ali creates a vibrant and surprisingly believable world, full of big personalities and lively exchanges of dialogue. The prose is often on the sloppy side, but the author manages to build tension when he needs to: “There was panic in Tha Pope’s voice. Tha Pope was trying to get Lesson’s attention, but Lesson was silent. He saw the truck still sitting in front of the Wal-Mart, but Lesson, Jameer, and Goob were out of his line of sight, and he didn’t have time to maneuver the drone into a better position. He also didn’t want the Wal-Mart security team to see the drone and become suspicious.” There’s a recursive quality to the writing, and Ali manages to repeat nearly every piece of information a few more times than is necessary. Even so, the book is highly readable, leaning into pulpy archetypes and cinematic flourishes to keep things fun. Lesson is a compelling protagonist even when he is doing and saying unfortunate things, and readers will be happy to follow along and see just how he manages to sort it all out. The novel ends in an intriguing place, followed by sample chapters from the forthcoming sequel.
A messy but entertaining crime caper.