Verdict: Interesting backstories, sleek technology, and cleverness give this stylish thriller a good foundation, but a lack of conflict and fleshed out character dynamics leave it feeling a little hollow.
Even among your closest friends, who can you trust with hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line?
Heist stories are always a source of endless public fascination—the more extravagant, the better. Matt Gale’s KINGS AND CONCUBINES lays the groundwork for a lavish crime story centered on six friends who manage a perfect robbery that leaves them seven hundred thousand dollars richer. Just before they’re about to split up the money years later, one of their own is left in a coma after an attack. As suspicions rise and the lifelong friends begin to turn on one another, secrets unravel that reveal a bigger scheme at work.
KINGS AND CONCUBINES finds its narrator in Lukas, a musician with a penchant for motorcycles and vices. With witty internal dialogue, Lukas introduces his close-knit circle of friends. All of them live comfortable, expensive lifestyles in Nashville, which provides a lesser-used backdrop for a heist story. They gravitate around their unofficial leader, Max Mason, who’s something of a Jay Gatsby- esque character. It’s fun to live vicariously through these people, who boast opulent cars and houses and have more money than they can spend. The fact that they’ve secretly pulled off an elaborate heist makes it all the more appealing, as it’s hard not to admire their bravado or combined intelligence. What’s more is that even though their lives are almost immaculate from first glance, everyone has real, human flaws or quirks. They also share a unique worldview, offering some thought-provoking philosophies while they grapple with their criminal past.
Like everyone else in the friend group, Lukas’ backstory is interesting, but the main cast comes off as a bit too pretentious at times. The friends, including Lukas, talk more about how remarkable Max is rather than letting their relationship dynamics show on the page. More time spent actually delving into their relationships instead of relying on flashback conversations or expository paragraphs would have enriched their bond to each other. Other important events throughout the novel happen this way as well, and in the rushed flow of the plot, chances for more tension and conflict are drained from the narrative. The most disappointing instance comes during what’s intended to be the climactic event that, despite its brilliance, ends up being resolved too quickly and easily.
~Jessica Thomas for IndieReader