I don’t normally go for mob/crime novels, but Con Me Once author J.L. Delozier managed to hook me with her e-mail intro:
“Hi! I’m a sci-fi/thriller/crime writer whose latest novel, Con Me Once, is set to release on 02/05/2020. The book, which I liken to Kick-Ass meets Ocean’s Eleven, is a mob/heist novel set in the world of comic conventions, cosplay, and geek culture….From Star Wars to Dr. Who, X-Men to Watchmen, it’s packed with geek and sly pop-culture references. Even Elvis makes an appearance.”
How could I not be intrigued?
Con Me Once is the story of lifelong friends Frank Lambda and Rauch, two completely different people thrown together by their mutually crummy childhoods, which landed them both in juvie at the same time. Rauch now works for the mob, while Frank prowls the neighborhood as the crime-busting Lambda Man, complete with superhero outfit and cape. When a hit goes wrong and Rauch kills the wrong guy, then Frank’s world comes crashing down when his comic store boss ends up on the mob hit list, both guys are left in a bad situation that makes a crazy offer from a mysterious purple-haired stranger sound appealing.
According to Delozier, “I’ve always been a huge comic book/graphic novel/superhero movie fan. I got the idea for this book from an old GQ article on the “real-life superhero community”, specifically a man named Phoenix Jones. The article made me ponder the psychology behind the need for these (mostly) men to dress up in homemade costumes and patrol their neighborhoods. It also made me wonder what would happen if they got embroiled in something heavier than helping little old ladies cross the street, and – voila! – Con Me Once was born.”
That “something heavier” comes in the form of Keira, who offers them both a chance to join her secret organization Heroes2B, Inc., where they will train to be real heroes…or so she says. Both Rauch and Frank suspect there’s something more to her story that she’s just a psychologist pitching Heroes2B as a study for her doctoral degree. And of course, there is!
Rounding out the Heroes2B crew is Ruletka- a transgender Russian that takes the hero thing very seriously, Deliverance- an unstable hyper-active sharp-shooter who may actually be insane, and Pinball- a Samuel L. Jackson lookalike and tech guru who makes fancy inventions and gadgets. Once this motley crew moves from their training facility to Vegas, the con is on! Frank And Rauch realize they are in deep, but if they can just get through this one job, they’ll be set for life.
The story is well-written and fast paced, so it drew me in right away. They don’t get to the convention in Vegas until at least half-way through the book, so the focus is heavier on the crime drama, while the cosplay and convention are in the background. Without giving too much away, Delozier really nailed it with her description of it being “Kick-Ass meets Ocean’s Eleven.”
You can also check out more books by J.L. Delozier on her website: https://www.jldelozier.com/