Kip Largo is a former con man who is trying, finally, to lead an honest life. That is, until his loser son, fearing the Russian Mob, comes to him for help. To save his son, Kip must pull off one last “big con.” To do so, he needs to navigate between a ruthless Armenian criminal, a cold-blooded Las Vegas tycoon, a curvaceous porn star, and the various big and little cons that comprised Silicon Valley during the height of the Internet Bubble.
Con Ed is a little on the thin side but ultimately it is a quick fun read. The characters are there to serve the story and their relationships and interactions with each other don’t give you much to hang your hat on. But a book about con men pulling a job is almost always about the con.
“So, all things considered, how bad am I? Everyone’s conning everyone. I’m the only one scrupulous enough to make an honest living at it.”
Throughout the book Kip uses the alienation effect to directly addressed the reader. It is in these moments that we are treated to histories of various cons and step by step instructions on pulling them. We are given terms and names so we can see the ace hidden in the sleeve of the con. These are some of the most enjoyable moments of the book.
“This is the problem with a Big Con, if you must know. It requires months of preparation. A Big Con cannot be run alone, and so it requires that you build a team of capable people. It requires that you work together, know each member of your team intimately, that you are able to predict each others every move. It requires, in short, that you trust each other.
But what kind of people can you ask to run a con with you? Quite simply, dishonest people. Which is the problem. How can you trust someone to watch your back, when you’re secretly afraid of what they do behind it.”
It is one of these historical cons that is updated for the modern age and used here to full effect. Like all great cons it seems so simple that you WILL be tempted to try pulling it off.
The side of the book that might be the most vibrant is the extended lessons on the tech boom and bursting bubble in the 1990′s. Klein is able to use his own experience from this time period to give us his own historical lesson. With the benefit of distance we are able to now see the tech boom for the empty bubble folly that it was. We are given a ring side seat as he explains it all to us in clean, simple and sober terms that only one who survived the bust can give us.
Kip is perfect as the protagonist. He has a completely affable personality that puts us at ease so its easy to imagine him putting his marks at ease. He is also possessed of a casual almost off the cuff humor that belies his complete understanding of his situation. The quotes scattered throughout should demonstrate this and the following quote might just be the funniest line of 2007.
“Behind a desk sat a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound male receptionist. He’s black, with a shaved head, a diamond-stud earring, a Vandyke, and rippling muscles visible under a skintight t-shirt. Although he’s sitting, the posture seems temporary, as if he might spring upward, like some kind of terrifying gay boxer, and rush from his corner to kick my lily-white ass.”
Over all I liked this book. With the warmer months coming when your packing for a vacation and need a book to read on the beach or by the pool take Klein with you.
I originally reviewed Con Ed on April 3, 2007