Simon & Schuster, Jan 2008, $22.00
Thirty-nine years old Justine has been mentoring her younger lover Will on the art of conning people since they met a few years ago. They always choose easy marks small sums so that the pigeon never retaliates or even go to the police. Justine’s philosophy is that the humiliation must be greater than the lost funds.
In Rome, the two grifters select recent American high school graduate Darcy Arlen as their next pigeon. The tourist is bored with the organized group tours of the great ruins so while the guide Mrs. Abignale naps and her roommate Rhonda showers, the American teen sneaks out of their hotel to do her own sightseeing. When she meets pensive Will looking into the Tiber, she is fascinated especially since she recognizes him from going to the same Old Indian bend High School in Ohio that she just graduated from; albeit six months late. He and his teacher persuade Darcy to leave the tour and go to Venice with them. From there they travel to the Greek isle Matala as Will and Justine think they have the perfect victim even as a romantic triangle forms.
The key to this superb sting story line is Darcy whose character seemingly changes over the course of MATALA. The two con artists are fascinating protagonists who assume the high school grad comes from wealthy parents as her trip is a graduation present from them. Readers will enjoy this entertaining thriller as the interplay between the triangular participants and a few other marks make for a fun read with several wonderful unexpected twists.