Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Last Con by Zachary Bartels

This is a complicated novel. It took me to about half way to get hooked into the story. I like getting hooked earlier but I am glad I persevered. The second half of the book made up for the complicated aspect of setting the stage in the first half.

The main character is Fletcher, a grifter recently released from prison. He is trying to restore his place in his family, his wife and daughter having waited for him the six years he was incarcerated. He'd found Jesus in prison and as the book opens, Fletcher and his family are going on a youth trip to Detroit. Fletcher runs into his old mentor and before long is blackmailed into doing work. The job is a serious con involving treasures from centuries past. Before long, Fletcher's wife and daughter are involved and it becomes a matter of life and death.

This novel is about deception. It is an essential skill of a grifter. But it gives us readers something to think about too. Many of the people in the novel were not who they appeared to be on the surface. Perhaps we do that too. Is it ever right to be dishonest, say, toward a spouse? And what about conning someone? Do we perhaps set up the scene, make our spouse's favorite meal, attempting to influence the outcome? Other issues in the book include the life of a convict when he returns to society and, perhaps, his church. How can he be mentored and helped to be restored to society? Fletcher went along with a youth group mission trip. Was that a good idea?

I was a little taken aback by all the deceptive actions in the novel. I felt there was much more about the con, especially in the first half, than there was about the history behind the entire scheme. I became more interested in reading the novel as more of the history was revealed in the second half. Be sure to give this novel a hundred pages or so before deciding whether you like it or not.

In an Author's Note, Bartels reveals the historical background of the book. Much of the action is this novel has its roots in historical fact.

In the end, I enjoyed the novel. There was plenty of action and a good deal of suspense in the second half.

Zachary Bartels is the author of Playing Saint. An award-winning preacher and Bible teacher, he serves as pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Lansing, MI, where he lives with his wife and their son. You can find out more at

Thomas Nelson, 400 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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