Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Review: Heist Society, Ally Carter

Heist Society

Ally Carter

Orchard Books, 2011 (2010)

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. But now her dad's life is on the line, and Kat must go back to the world she tried so hard to escape...

This book was a lot like being swept up on a wave of improbability and having such a fun time that you forget to look down until the end. This was my second Ally Carter novel - the other being the first Gallagher Girls book - and the two have a lot in common.While the Gallagher Girls books take place in a boarding school for spies, Heist Society opens up with Kat being expelled from her prestigious school for a crime she didn't commit. She finds herself thrust back into a world of robbery, heists, secrecy and ingenuity, a life she has tried to escape only to find she must pull off the most difficult job yet in order to save her father's life.

Carter gets the pacing spot on in this book, and I think this is its outstanding feature. The backstory is only ever glimpsed or mentioned briefly by other characters. It has to be pieced together, rather than stopping for much exposition, and this meant the action started up almost immediately and didn't let up until the end. Kat has a certain number of days in which to steal a number of paintings from the world's most impenetrable gallery, aided by a group of her equally skilled friends. A bit like Ocean's 11 with fifteen year olds.

The plot is vaguely ludicrous and highly improbable, and the reason that Kat must do the theft in the first place is a bit mad, but as a piece of fun action-adventure it works. It would almost work better as a film that as a book, in a way. There's a romantic element that lingers in the background, but I wonder if that is explored over subsequent books in the series - there were a few things in Heist Society (the dead mother, the family business that Kat maintains an uneasy relationship with, her reasons for running away to school) that seemed important but had to remain on the sidelines, that I suspect might be revisited in later installments.

A fun, slightly silly but gripping adventure with a lot of dashing around Europe and plenty of instances of distracting security guards, crawling through air vents, and hacking into the mainframe. This is definitely worth a read if you enjoyed Carter's other series, or if you just fancy a bit of escapism.

Overall rating: 5.5/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.


  1. I couldn't finish the first Gallagher Girls book...felt like the story was just lacking...something. I was listening to it on audio during my work commute, and kept switching to the radio because I couldn't focus on the story. It's too bad that this series seems equally "meh" -- and I loved the covers too!

    1. It was very much a case with Heist Society of wishing there was slightly 'more' to it, the whole time I was reading it. I felt similarly about the Gallagher Girls book - I liked the idea of it, and it was fun, but I've never run out to read the second one!


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