Warning: This book review contains some spoilers for “The Con Artist” by Fred Van Lente.
I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “The Con Artist” by Fred Van Lente! Given that this murder mystery takes place at a comic con, and a lot of people are likely missing comic cons or attended virtual cons since last year due to COVID-19 circumstances, I thought that this would be a fun book to read. Here’s a summary so you know what it’s about:
“Comic book artist Mike Mason arrives at San Diego Comic-Con, seeking sanctuary with other fans and creators—and maybe to reunite with his ex—but when his rival is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. To clear his name, Mike will have to navigate every corner of the con, from zombie obstacle courses and cosplay flash mobs to intrusive fans and obsessive collectors, in the process unraveling a dark secret behind one of the industry’s most legendary creators.”
Worldbuilding Development: 5 out of 5 stars
I’m actually impressed with how much thought went into how the main character, Mike, sees the world of comic cons. Granted, he is an artist that frequents cons, so it makes sense, but still. It was interesting to read how he categorized customers for his art commissions. I also enjoyed how the book touched upon topics like harassment of women in fandom, how hard it is to break into the comic industry, etc. The chaos of the con was also well-written, especially in the midst of the actual murder mystery going on throughout the book. If there was something the book succeeded in, it was capturing what it’s like to be in a fandom and/or in the convention scene, from the fun parts to the not-so-good parts. And yes, this book does a better job of this than previous books I’ve read portraying fandoms and cons, like “Fangirl” and “Don’t Cosplay With My Heart.”
Character Development: 3 out of 5 stars
I enjoyed the snappy dialogue from all of the characters. It gave each of them really fun quirks and showed off their personalities well. Unfortunately, the only character that really got any development was the main character himself; all the rest felt mostly flat. I did, however, enjoy reading the other characters despite their lack of development.
Plot Development: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The book relied more on the chaos of the comic con driving the initial events of the book. This gave for some hilarious scenes, like the zombie-chasing one. However, I also think it made the actual investigation of the murder drag on more than it needed to. However, the second half of the book picked up much more in the actual mystery. I really enjoyed the plot twists given in there, as well as the surprising ending.
Overall, I’m rating this book 3.5 out of 5 stars!
I would definitely recommend this for anyone missing conventions. The book does an amazing job of capturing the feeling of being in there. I also recommend it for those that enjoy reading a lot of chaotic events happening.
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