Thanks for deep pockets poorly guarded

As plot devices go, super thieves and con men are the non-scary equivalents of serial killers: Endlessly fascinating but overused and implausible. There are some in real life, but once you’ve seen fifty variations of the Super Awesome Heist story, or the Brilliant Psychopath Plays Mind Games With Detective story, the spell breaks.

I almost like Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora. It’s a Super Awesome Heist story in a fantasy setting. It’s well written and intelligent, thus passing a test most fantasy doesn’t. It begins strong, and stayed there for the 220 pages I read.

But then I asked myself what it was that I liked about it. It wasn’t the characters. I still haven’t got a clear idea about Locke Lamora, the con man whose intricate plans to ruin a nobleman appears to be the main plot here. He’s just a name on a page. The city is interesting – but that got me thinking about Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber’s city of prototypical sardonic thievery, and I remembered how much better in every way his stories were than this. I thought: Why am I reading this? I want to reread Leiber!

I realized that the only thing I enjoyed about this novel was the Super Awesome Heist story, which is just too awesome, too perfect, (although clearly headed for a sudden Complication), and from there it all fell apart. It could have been different. This is the kind of novel I might have read in one sitting on a hot summer day. But it’s not to be.

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