King’s (The Blackmail Photos, 2016, etc.) fourth outing with the Travelers, a husband-and-wife con artist team, sees them chasing stolen artwork.
The Travelers go from city to city, orchestrating elaborate cons that rip off deserving crooks. This time around, the couple poses as Ron and Nicole Carter, in the city of Charles Bay. Their latest target is Pat McCall, a corrupt information-technology professional who deals in credit card numbers. After sleeping with him, Nicole tries to get him to drink some spiked water, so that he’ll pass out and she can lift data from his laptop. McCall doesn’t fall for this ruse, however, and Ron must intervene to salvage their identities. The 40-something Nicole blames herself for the failed con, believing that she’s no longer the femme fatale that she once was. Soon she and Ron are on a fresh con facilitated by Aaron Rickover, an insurance investigator. He informs them that a gold, jeweled casket that was on its way to the Peter Damascus Sculpture Museum in Los Angeles has been stolen and placed in a “freeport” vault, outside of the reach of U.S. customs. The museum offers the Travelers a $150,000 finder’s fee to obtain it. The Carters do manage to collect the masterpiece, only to have a rival squad of thieves unexpectedly engage them in gunplay at an airport. In this latest go-round with the Travelers, readers should already be accustomed to author King’s casual excellence, particularly when it comes to character development. In the first half, for example, he ably reestablishes a psychological rift between his protagonists when Ron suggests that they adopt a third partner—a younger woman whom Nicole could train to seduce targets. King then cleverly flips this dynamic, though, when they eventually con a cultured man whose wife is near death in a hospital, and whom Nicole allows to emotionally cling to her “as tightly as the last piece of flotsam from the wreckage of his life.” Overall, King delivers a solidly written, self-contained thriller that also sets the stage for his cons’ return.
Another exceptional account of heart-of-gold con artistry.