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The moment I'd scanned the outside of the building, I turned to Bruno and said, "First impressions, it looks straightforward." Looking back, I can't help but wonder what I was thinking. I mean, put that line at the opening of a crime novel and it's practically a guarantee that everything is about to get complicated. Charlie Howard--globe-trotting mystery writer, professional thief, and poor decision maker--is in Paris. Flush with the success of his latest book reading, not to mention a few too many glasses of wine, Charlie agrees to show a complete novice how to break into an apartment in the Marais. Fast-forward twenty-four hours and Charlie's hired to steal an ordinary-looking oil painting--from the exact same address. Mere coincidence? Charlie figures there's no harm in finding out--until a dead body turns up in his living room and he finds himself evading the law while becoming caught up in a quite outrageous heist. And that's before Charlie's literary agent, Victoria (who's naive enough to assume that he looks like his author photo), finally decides they should meet face-to-face. Nobody ever said a life of suspense was easy, but Charlie, the most disarmingly charming burglar since Cary Grant, soon finds things are getting way out of control.
"An impressive, very funny debut novel . . . featuring Charlie Howard, who is the very model of a modern master criminal. "--The Raleigh News & Observer Charlie Howard travels the globe writing suspense novels for a living. To supplement his income--and keep his hand in--Charlie has a small side business: stealing for a very discreet clientele on commission. When a mysterious American offers Charlie 20,000 euros to steal two small monkey figurines to match the one he already has, Charlie is suspicious; the job seems too good to be true, and of course, it is: He soon finds the American beaten nearly to death, while the third figurine has disappeared. Back in London, his literary agent, Victoria (who is naive enough to believe he actually looks like his jacket photo), tries to talk him through the plot problems in both his latest manuscript and in his real life--but Charlie soon finds himself caught up in a caper reminiscent of a Cary Grant movie, involving safe-deposit boxes, menacing characters, and a beautiful damsel in distress.
During a brief trip to Vegas, Charlie Howard - mystery writer and professional thief - is nonplussed to find his agent, Victoria, being charmed by a stage illusionist at a high stakes roulette table. It doesn't help that the illusionist, Josh Masters, has invited Victoria to his sell-out show, nor that he seems to be doing very well at roulette. Still, Charlie's not one to hold a grudge, least of all when he could be holding Masters' wallet. Breaking into the conjurer's hotel room and making off with a pile of casino chips would seem to be adequate compensation. Matters are complicated however when Charlie discovers the trussed-up corpse of Masters' beautiful assistant lying in the bath. When Masters disappears and Charlie is caught with his stolen haul of high denomination chips, his problems have only just begun. Ordered to reimburse the casino for every dollar Masters made off with, it seems to Charlie there's only one way out: break into as many hotel rooms as he can, steal as much as he is able to, and just hope that Victoria can summon lady luck to the gaming table of her choice.
Charlie Howard, gentleman thief and famous crime-writer, has gone straight. But holing himself up in a crumbling palazzo in Venice in an attempt to concentrate on his next novel hasn't got rid of the itch in his fingers. And to make matters worse, a striking Italian beauty has just broken into his apartment and made off with his most prized possession, leaving a puzzling calling card in its place. It looks as though kicking the habit of a lifetime will be much more of a challenge than Charlie thought. Sneaking out into Venice's maze of murky canals, and trying not to relish being back on the job too much, Charlie's efforts to be reunited with his treasured first-edition of The Maltese Falcon quickly embroil him in a plot that is far bigger and more explosive than he could ever have imagined. But by the time he finds himself bundling his first ever hostage into a trunk on a speedboat and on the run from the polizia he has to admit that he is in way too deep.
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