Asher’s two crime novellas feature con artist Olivia Jane Doe as she charms, cheats and hustles her way through Florida and Mexico.
The first novella is set in Fort Lauderdale and narrated by small-time grifter Parker, who has been running short cons at the local marina, where he works with his partner in crime, Dave. Parker meets Olivia when he falls victim to one of her hustles. She takes a liking to him and convinces him to ditch Dave and join her in a scheme to scam money from the owner of the marina. The story is a fun caper with snappy dialogue. There’s an early debate between Parker and Dave about the rules of rock-paper-scissors that’s especially funny. Olivia and Parker’s heist, however, stalls the plot rather than adding tension. There are so many crosses and double crosses that the storylines sag, and it’s difficult to care about who comes out on top. The second, stronger novella is narrated in the third person and reveals Olivia’s motivations. Set in Mexico, the tale opens as Olivia has just lost two of her partners in a con gone wrong. She’s buried nearly $1 million in the middle of the desert for safekeeping and needs to flee the country stat. Asher deftly handles the plot’s many twists, turns and flashbacks. As in the first novella, it’s the whip-smart dialogue that makes the story shine. It’s a joy to watch Olivia match wits with everyone from a Mexican crime lord to a flight instructor, whom she tries to talk into giving her a lift across the border. At one point she attempts to convince him to let her pilot the plane even though she’s never flown before. When the flight instructor tells her this plan is “suicide,” she responds, “No, it’s not…I’ve thought about suicide. This is my second, and slightly better option.”
It’s hard not to root for a character this hilarious and cunning; let’s hope she has a few more misadventures in her future.