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Believe It?: Bluff, The Great Swindle, and The Confidence Game

3 Jul

If you love to be fooled, or just admire a good scam, I have a handful of books that might appeal to you.

By Michael Kardos
Bluff by Michael Kardos is set in various locales in New Jersey (Rahway, Highlands, Atlantic City, and more), but that’s just incidental to the story. The plot involves Natalie Webb, a prestidigitator magician (as opposed to the big trick guys like David Blaine, Penn and Teller, etc.) who is not quite making ends meet. After a disastrous performance, she finds herself in need of some cash, and decides to write an article about the art of cheating at cards. In looking for a good subject for her story, she finds herself using her magic skills to assist in a major poker scam.

You don’t have to know about poker to follow the action. Turns out the art of cheating at cards is more than a mere mechanical skill set. It involves a lot of psychology as well. Things don’t go as planned. Trouble ensues.

The suspense and fast pace make this a good summer read.  You can borrow it in print from the Hoboken Public Library or our resident patrons can check it out from Hoopla.

Great Swindle
by Pierre Lemaitre
Great Swindle
If you are in the mood for bigger scams with a historical background, you may enjoy The Great Swindle, by Pierre Lemaitre.

The story involves Albert and Edouard, damaged veterans of World War I who find their country’s gratitude for their service to be wanting. They devise a scheme to take money for war memorials that will never be constructed.

Meanwhile, their former Lieutenant who was responsible for their terrible injuries is running a scam of his own.

It is fascinating to see how these three lives intersect and you’ll be racing to the finish to learn what happens. It was also fascinating to learn about the historical precedent for one of these scams. My only quibble with this excellent book was a little too convenient coincidence that is involved toward the end of the novel.

The Confidence Game
by Maria Konnikova
The Confidence Game
Finally, if you prefer non-fiction, Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It…Every Time is an insightful look at the psychology of the confidence game. Spoiler alert: we like to believe great stories. Konnikova dissects the art and psychology of the con game, and claims that we all can be fooled. In this age of alternative facts, this book gives some great context for understanding how a con works.  The Confidence Game is available as an ebook and digital audiobook from eBCCLS.

Written by
Victoria Turk
Reference Librarian

Quick Staff Pick: Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton

8 Jun

Great North Road is a commitment. At 914 pages (paperback) it is
well plotted, has characters that you’ll really care about, a lot of
sci-fi concepts, and an intriguing mystery.


The North family is a dynasty that is coming apart at the seams. The
three sons of Kane North (Augustine, Bartram, and Constantine) have
cloned themselves and are pursuing different interests in different
parts of the galaxy. It is 2143, and interstellar travel is common,
with new outposts of humanity and clones inhabiting strange new
worlds. The cloning thing doesn’t quite have all the bugs worked out
yet, as the clones of clones tend to lose intelligence as the copies
of copies seem to introduce flaws. The clones are conveniently named
with A, B, and C names to help keep them straight and help you
remember who is allied with whom. There is also a lengthy list of
characters at the front of the book to help you keep the other
characters straight. It isn’t quite complete, though, because the book
is a mystery, and to list all the characters and suspects would lead
to spoilers. So you will encounter names that you will have to
remember as the story progresses.

While the narrative progresses in strictly date-defined chronological
order, it also includes uses some present-tense background fill-in
that gradually paints the broader picture of how these characters came
to this point and how they relate to one another.

Sound confusing? It’s really not.

The gist of the plot is this: A North is murdered and despite DNA info
and a lot of futuristic surveillance technology Sid Hurst and his
homicide team have trouble identifying the victim, let alone the
perpetrator. The body, however, has tell-tale forensic details that
tie it to the death of Bartram North. Bartram’s killer, Angela
Tramelo, is imprisoned and could not have committed the second murder.
Angela has always claimed her innocence and says that a
humanoid-looking monster is responsible for the killing.
So the search for the killer proceeds on two fronts: a search for a
monster who arrived via interstellar travel, or someone with an ax to
grind against the North family.

While some of the descriptions of society in the age of advanced
technology are pretty cool, Hamilton can get a little bogged down
describing the technology. And over 900 pages, there were parts of the
novel that dragged a bit. I was glad that I kept slogging through at
points, though, as the book as a whole was worth the time and effort,
and provided a look at what the future may hold. Cloning, omnipresent
surveillance, deporting society’s undesirables…the future may be
nearer than we think.

-Written by Victoria Turk, Reference Librarian

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