MATCHSTICK MEN

Eric Garcia, Author . Villard $22.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-375-50522-5

If you're a con artist, is there anyone you can trust? That's the question for the protagonists of this stylish but somewhat hollow novel by Garcia (Anonymous Rex). Roy is a careful, fiscally prudent and emotionally barren con man suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder—really suffering, now that his psychiatrist has left town and Roy has run out of his medication. Frankie, his partner, spends wildly and always wants to pull just one more scam. The trouble begins when Frankie introduces Roy to Dr. Klein, a well-meaning psychiatrist who aims to do more than merely dispense pills and who ends up reuniting Roy with the daughter he never knew he had. Fourteen-year-old Angela is far from angelic as she worms her way into Roy's life (not unlike Tatum O'Neal's character in the movie Paper Moon, but without her sheen of innocence). Set in an unnamed American city and told in clipped, streetwise prose, the novel is ingeniously plotted (the ending is a real surprise), though the scams themselves aren't as clever as one might hope. More seriously, in spite of the detailed descriptions of their neuroses, Roy and Frankie are underdeveloped; Roy delivers a few funny interior monologues, and there's some crackling dialogue, but these bad guys don't quite gel into memorable characters. The title apparently refers to a slang term for con men, but reading about Roy and Frankie, one can't help thinking of its other association: stick figures. (Dec. 10)

Forecast:A film based on the book is scheduled to be released in the summer of 2003, with some big names attached (Ridley Scott is the director, Nicholas Cage the star). Garcia's growing reputation—he's the author of the Rex series—should also help push sales, along with author appearances in New York and Los Angeles.

Reviewed on: 11/04/2002
Release date: 12/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 131 pages - 978-0-307-48803-9
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-06-056743-9
Compact Disc - 978-0-06-056744-6
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-8129-6821-7
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