cover image Confidence


Rafael Frumkin. Simon & Schuster, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-982189-73-0

Frumkin’s exuberant latest (after The Comedown) pulls off a queer take on the caper novel. Insecure, brainy Ezra Green and handsome, charismatic Orson Ortman meet as teenagers at the Last Chance Camp, a kind of pre-juvenile detention program. Both show a precocious knack for con artistry. After their release, they partner on a series of mini-cons, like hustling wealthy older women, that takes them into their 20s. Eventually, they embark on their greatest scam—founding a company called NuLife that sells happiness via wearable magnets. Ezra handles the business side and Orson takes care of all things spiritual. At the same time, they strike up a sexual relationship. Ezra is in love with Orson, but never says so for fear that Orson won’t reciprocate. The cultish NuLife grows into a huge success, making Ezra and Orson rich and famous. But then their empire comes under attack from a seemingly relentless financial investigator, a Stanford grad student who claims they stole his ideas, and a Hollywood starlet who comes between the two men. Frumkin’s sharp observations and clever plotting echo the Theranos scandal and the NXIVM cult, though some of the twists are a bit improbable. In the end, Frumkin advances the subversive notion that love might be the biggest con of all. For the reader, the deception is thoroughly enjoyable. (Feb.)