What do an art student, the son of a small-time gangster enforcer, and an upper-crust British playboy have in common? Not much, until they decide to work together to pull off a piece of well-crafted art fraud to the tune of a cool 2.4 million dollars.
A student at the Ontario College of Art, Marty is a talented, yet aimless, student with no real passion for his work and no idea what to do once he graduates—until a random newspaper article concerning the Getty museum crosses his path, and a plan is born. It would be too ambitious to attempt to sell off a forgery of a well-known piece by a famous artist, but what about a decent fake of a lesser-known work that’s already known to have been stolen? Convinced that he can produce a credible forgery, Marty brings in two friends to help pull it off. Matt Babcock, son of deceased mob enforcer ‘Mad Dog’ Babcock, knows the guys, who know the guys, who know how to set up these kinds of scams. And Trust Fund baby Howie Harrington moves in the same social circles that include that certain type of unscrupulous millionaire who’s always willing to acquire a stolen work of art for the right price. Soon, a very credible forgery of a lost Picasso is up for grabs, and the hook has been set. Now, in a lake-full of crime bosses, government agencies, nervous buyers, and art experts, the boys just have to make sure that the right fish takes the bait.
Pablo Fandango is an interesting bit of heist work. A scam is a scam, and it’s the element of will-they or won’t-they pull it off that makes these stories so much fun to read. Kelly does an admirable job of getting three unlikely characters into a realistic tableau, weaving them together against a background tapestry of syndicated crime, dysfunctional families, childhood trauma, and the real-life streets of 1990’s Toronto, New York, and San Francisco. Marty, Matt, and Howie are written as real people, and Kelly pulls off a depth of character-building that thankfully manages to avoid stereotypical elements and hints of cliché.
The only area I found a little thin was the lack of real tension, especially following the launch of the plan. There were many instances where the thread of the story could have been wrapped tighter and tighter, but rather than take the opportunity to ratchet up the tension, Kelly simply let those moments pass without allowing them latch fully into the story. However, Pablo Fandango is still a worthwhile read if you’re looking for a little fast-paced art-heist fun.
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|Mystery, Crime, Thriller