cover image King Con

King Con

Stephen J. Cannell. William Morrow & Company, $24 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14776-1

Smart, fast, funny and teeming with appealing characters, this thriller by novelist (Final Victory) and TV writer (The Rockford Files, etc.) Cannell has all the marks of a hit. Beano X. Bates, a member of a clan of ""nomads"" (not gypsies) whose ""family business"" has long been con games, received a serious setback when New Jersey mobster Joe Rina used a nine-iron to put him in the hospital after a crooked card game. Beano retaliated with a criminal complaint (using the alias Frank Lemay), but his scheme backfired. Named ""King Con"" on America's Most Wanted, Beano sensibly eloped from the hospital and slipped off to Florida, where he is now hiding out, appropriately selling used cars. Back in New Jersey, however, Assistant Attorney General Victoria Hart has a surprise eyewitness to the beating. But an antiseptic hit (no bodies, blood or clues) wipes out Victoria's case, and she's just about fired by her smarmy, ambitious boss. Eager to get revenge against the Rinas and seeing a chance to pull off a multimillion-dollar scam, Beano enlists Victoria's aid, using his formidable grifter's charm. With help from dozens of Bateses, the pair run an escalating series of cons (including ""The Most Valuable Dog in the World"" scam). In a plot that never stops for breath, Vicky learns a great deal: dressed as a bimbo, for example, she discovers why ""girls in five-inch platform shoes all looked stupid. It was impossible to walk."" Major ad/promo; author tour. (May) FYI: Cannell is to write and co-produce an MGM film production of King Con, starring John Travolta.