The fifth recorded caper for the thief who, imitating Richard Stark’s Parker, is known only as Wilson dangles a fortune in jewels in front of him and an ill-fated crew.
David Phillips and his brother-in-law, Alvin, offer a nifty target for a heist: Mendelson Jewels, where David works as a jewelry designer for Saul Mendelson, who’s become a little absent-minded and more than a little paranoid as he’s gotten on in years. During one special weekend, Mendelson will be holding a million dollars’ worth of sparklers waiting for the right personnel to grab, and Vin believes he’s assembled just the right personnel: strong-armed Johnny, a racist ex-con, and his buddy Tony; a pair of safecrackers both named Diego; Elliot, a hacker who can get inside the firm’s computer system; Monica, an African-American driver; and Wilson (The Buffalo Job, 2014, etc.) and his friend Miles. The group’s original plan, which already sounds pretty complicated, is aborted when two apparently indispensable members of the crew are killed in a car crash, leaving Wilson, who always thought nine people were too many for the job in the first place, to try his luck together with Monica and Miles. When this second attempt is stymied as well, Wilson realizes that he’s up against a rival thief just as smart and ruthless as he is, somebody who’s been playing him from the beginning. As in Jeffery Deaver’s very different thrillers, identifying the other thief doesn’t end the complications. Neither does killing the other thief. The tension will ease only when breathless readers turn the very last page.
Knowles builds for impact and speed. Even the ruthless hero’s matter-of-fact reflections on his felonious craft (“The games we play are never fair and they never end clean. They just end”) achieve a truly baleful economy.