Normally, I’m wary of TV to novel projects.
I mean, who isn’t? When someone picks up an existing IP, you desperately want them to understand it better than even the creator, unless you’re willing to end up with something out of character and flat. Thankfully, the Leverage tie-in novels mostly fit the bill, hitting the right notes in believable characterization and almost unbelievable schemes. At 300 pages and $8 a pop, they’re each an evening of entertainment, and I’m glad I purchased the set!
But don’t take my word for it without the specifics, okay? Instead, check out today’s mini reviews!
The Con Job by Matt Forbeck
When a disreputable dealer starts swindling aged and ailing comic-book creators out of their wealth—and their high-valued comics and artwork—the daughter of one victim comes to ex-insurance investigator Nathan Ford and his team of counter-crooks for help.
Their scheme: run a con at the Comic-Con International, where the crook intends to sell the goods. But there’s more going on than simple theft. An arson plot is in motion that will not only destroy countless rare collectibles, but may end up costing lives.
With time short, the team must take down a ruthless mark whose true motives have yet to be revealed…
When I learned that there were three tie-in novels for Leverage, I worried. Tie-ins, historically, have disappointed me deeply. Why take my chances on yet another one and only to set it aside in defeat?
Thankfully, that’s not the case with The Con Job. The first of the three Leverage tie-ins, it’s a little more Hardison-centric (he gets to run a con at a con, y’all!), and it’s a blast. Sure the writing sometimes strikes me as “dude who writes 250 page mystery novels all the time and they all have the same flavor,” but somehow? It also excels in capturing the unique voices and behaviors of the main cast.
And it spends more time with Eliot, Hardison, and Parker than it does with Sophie and Nate. Nothing against Sophie (I actually think she’s a delight), a little something against Nate (he’s a genius, but definitely also a jerk), but at the end of the day, I love anything that centers the OT3, individually or as a group.
Plus, there is a particular recurring antagonist Eliot gets to wallop, some choice pre-canon Pardison content (this takes place before the S3 finale), and overall, just some cons on a fun romp through a con! Any issues with the quality or style of the writing take a back seat since it was such fun.
CW: loss of a loved one, violence (including gun violence)
The Zoo Job by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Marney Brillinger is in trouble. The zoo that has been in her family for generations is failing, and when she makes a deal with a Malanian priest to loan her two exotic black rhinos for a special exhibit, they never arrive. Now, she’s on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars to the priest, who was planning to use the money for sick children.
Desperate, she turns to Nate Ford and his team for assistance. But finding two very large lost animals is no easy feat when the search involves duplicity—both international and close–to–home—and the unwelcome arrival of Nate’s nemesis, Interpol agent James Sterling.
With Sterling around, if the team isn’t careful, they just might end up in cages of their own…
This time around, the team splits up, dividing their con efforts between the US and (a truthfully fictitious country in) Africa. A rhino never shows up at a struggling zoo, Eliot tangles with his past jobs under Moreau’s direction, and Sophie busts out an old alias from S2.
Like The Con Job, The Zoo Job isn’t a wonder of prose and finer detail. It is, however, another great foray into some of my favorite characters, complete with ever-increasing levels of ridiculousness. The cons they run this time are on an international scale, and once again, only this team could possibly pull it all off without it blowing up in their face. Really, this tie-in is a great example of keeping tie-in characterization darn near consistent with show characterization.
And if I remember correctly, it hovers somewhere between S3 and S4 or so, which covers a few of my absolute favorite character moments. Slotting the tie-in into the show timeline has been a special treat for me!
CW: loss of a loved one, animal death, violence (including gun violence), child death, alcoholism
The Bestseller Job by Greg Cox
After bestselling author Gavin Lee is killed by a hit-and-run driver, his estranged brother Brad appears out of nowhere to claim the estate, cutting off Gavin’s girlfriend and secret collaborator, Denise. Luckily, Denise knows Gavin had a good friend in Eliot Spencer.
It’s not money Denise is worried about. Gavin had intended to donate much of his profits to human-rights organizations, and Brad has no plan to honor those wishes. So the team sets out to use Brad’s own greed to get him out of the picture.
But soon Denise notices she’s being followed. Is it Brad? Her boyfriend’s mysterious informant? Or his killer? Whoever it is, Nate and the crew will have to read between the lines if they’re going to close the book on this case.
Still a fun romp with a strong handle on the team’s voices, The Bestseller Job gets this rating because I ultimately enjoyed it. I love the team, I love the sheer level of trickery they get up to, and most of all, I love the clever twists they rely on to get out of tight spots. It’s deeply satisfying to watch it all pull together, and for it to be in character to boot.
That said, this installment bummed me out. While it was more Eliot-centric than the other two, it didn’t do anything with his character that excited me so much as it played a very old song: Eliot hooks up with the only woman outside the Leverage team. And since this seems to be set somewhere in S4 by my best guess, it’s…an outdated approach at best.
(I could probably write an essay on how this is the time the OT3 is developing into something concrete, and the fact that Eliot’s hook-ups are basically no longer mentioned on-screen at this point in the show, but we won’t dive that deep today, or this will stop being a mini review.)
Plus, a major part of the book relies on the Leverage team writing an entire book in about 48 hours. As a group. And slamming it through an ally acting as editor still in that time frame. Suspension of disbelief only goes so far, even for the Leverage crew, and this one…broke me. 😵
So overall, fun concept, but some shaky execution left it a little lacking compared to the other two tie-ins.
CW: loss of a loved one, child death, violence (including gun violence), fatphobia, gore, body horror