Looking for well executed, very clever heist type novels
February 28, 2023 6:36 AM   Subscribe

any genre, any topic, anything! it's just gotta be fun, I think you will know the type of book I mean

assume I haven't read anything in this genre, so if there are particularly classic novels that "everyone would know" I probably don't

I guess an example would be oceans 11. I am not looking for a book that replicates that (though if there is a good one that does it is fine!), but I mean that sort of...cleverly written plot where the reader is tricked multiple times, and it all comes together in a satisfying way etc.

I'd also be open to books that aren't a heist per se but have that same vibe

would like it to be on the fun end. it can be serious or deal with serious stuff, but I'm not looking for heavy suspense thrillers
posted by wooh to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
Have you read Portrait of a Thief by Grace Li? (Author's web site here.)

It has a group of college-age kids stage a series of heists, with a great premise, and a connection to current events. I loved it.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:41 AM on February 28, 2023 [2 favorites]

Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows if you're open to fantasy heist!
posted by babelfish at 6:47 AM on February 28, 2023 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: definitely open to fantasy, sci fi, any genre! (I read a lot of speculative fiction otherwise, so in the case of fantasy and sci fi am totally down, but am open to other genres as well!)
posted by wooh at 6:51 AM on February 28, 2023

Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon has elements of treasure hunting/chasing and a lot of different story threads (across decades) all coming together at the very end. It's not everyone's cup of tea but if you've enjoyed his other works you might like it.
posted by _DB_ at 6:57 AM on February 28, 2023 [7 favorites]

Scott Lynch has a few of these in a baroque fantasy world.

But the name you really want to search for is Donald Westlake. His Dortmunder books specifically, but a lot of Westlake’s other stuff is comic-heist.
posted by Etrigan at 6:59 AM on February 28, 2023 [12 favorites]

Donald Westlake's fiction novels about Parker, the master thief, are incredible.

These books are about well-executed, very clever heists. It all comes together in a very satisfying way.

However, I do not know if you would say that they trick the reader multiple times -- although they have more than their share of surprises. Furthermore, I find them one hell of a lot of fun, and they regularly have flashes of dark humor, but they may fall into your prohibited zone of "heavy suspense thrillers."
posted by PaulVario at 7:19 AM on February 28, 2023 [9 favorites]

Metzger's Dog, by Thomas Perry. It's not exactly a heist, but it's clever, intricate and very funny.
posted by Gorgik at 7:20 AM on February 28, 2023 [3 favorites]

Fantasy YA: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.

And now that I’m thinking about it I want to reread it, to the library!
posted by lepus at 7:20 AM on February 28, 2023 [11 favorites]

Seconding The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner if you haven't read it. The whole series is outstanding, but The Thief is just [chef kiss] if you like fantasy and love heist stories.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:37 AM on February 28, 2023 [2 favorites]

Fantasy: The Gentleman Bastards series. The second one in particular is a nice mostly stand-alone heist/caper.

And really most books by Elmore Leonard, just read the back of the book or some other teaser plot synopses and pick the one that grabs you the most.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:38 AM on February 28, 2023 [5 favorites]

The Drake Maijstral novels by Walter Jon Williams are excellent.

The first one is The Crown Jewels
posted by Tabitha Someday at 7:50 AM on February 28, 2023 [1 favorite]

I also came to recommend The Gentleman Bastards! The first book in the series, The Lies of Locke Lamora, is about the adventures of a con-within-a-con-within-a-con artist in a fantasy Venice-like city. It's a ton of fun.
posted by ourobouros at 7:50 AM on February 28, 2023 [3 favorites]

Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard (the film of the book is Jackie Brown).
posted by Ardnamurchan at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2023 [3 favorites]

Peter Spiegelman writes a PI series but the one I like best is his stand alone: Thick as Thieves, a group of criminals take on a corrupt hedge fund manager.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:50 AM on February 28, 2023

I wonder if you would like the Lula and Sailor books by Barry Gifford - Wild at Heart was made into the David Lynch movie with Nic Cage and Laura Dern. Although I suppose those are more Bonny and Clyde caper books, rather than super slick heist books.

Maybe you would also enjoy Dashiell Hammett if you haven't read him. They aren't written from the perspective of the thieves, but his Continental Detective character isn't afraid to get involved in capers.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 9:10 AM on February 28, 2023 [2 favorites]

Dancing Aztecs by Donald E. Westlake would fit the bill perfectly.
posted by essexjan at 9:33 AM on February 28, 2023

Thirding or fourthing Westlake. The series people have mentioned are great, but a lot of the standalone ones are worth seeking out even if out of print.

Dancing Aztecs
Who Stole Sassi Manoon?
Help I Am Being Held Prisoner
High Adventure
posted by staggernation at 9:39 AM on February 28, 2023 [1 favorite]

Donald Westlake's fiction novels about Parker, the master thief, are incredible.

Generally found under the pen name of Richard Stark.
posted by Etrigan at 9:42 AM on February 28, 2023 [3 favorites]

Thought this would be a consensus classic but I don't see it anywhere above: Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery.

(Crichton also recycled that structure in Pirate Latitudes, released after his death)
posted by mannequito at 12:15 PM on February 28, 2023 [2 favorites]

The Dortmunder novels by (again) Donald Westlake. I recently finished Good Behavior, and I highly recommend Bad News.
The books are very funny, with no lack of suspense.
posted by Enid Lareg at 12:38 PM on February 28, 2023 [1 favorite]

Just finished Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, and it is this. I'd avoided Sanderson for many years and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Don't know if the rest of the trilogy similarly caper-like.
posted by lhauser at 1:12 PM on February 28, 2023

Iain Banks's heists:

Against a Dark Background
Consider Phlebas
The Algebraist
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:14 PM on February 28, 2023 [3 favorites]

I came here to second both Six of Crows and The Crown Jewels. Thanks for posting this, I've found some new books to read!
posted by rednikki at 6:15 PM on February 28, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oh, and also, The Thief. To give you an idea of how compelling it is - I read it to keep myself calm while sitting with a beloved person who was in a coma and dying, and it actually kept my attention. The entire series is really good, and all of them have heisty elements.
posted by rednikki at 6:18 PM on February 28, 2023 [2 favorites]

Killers of a Certain Age, by Deanna Raybourne. A group of female former assassins are made to retire, and then discover that they are in danger. They have to work together to save themselves and eliminate the threat. It’s fun for the same reason heist novels/movies are fun.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:22 PM on February 28, 2023 [3 favorites]

The Heist
is the first in a series about a successful crook and an FBI agent involved in ridiculous, baroque schemes. There are actually quite a few overlapping heists in the story. One of the authors is Janet Evanovich and there is definitely some Stephanie Plum level slapstick going on. I'm on number 3 in the series, so I guess I like it.
posted by SandiBeech at 7:10 PM on February 28, 2023

The Palace Job - Patrick Weeks.
posted by krieghund at 9:15 AM on March 1, 2023

Sarah Waters' Fingersmith. You'll see why!
posted by elsmith at 11:12 AM on March 1, 2023 [2 favorites]

Ooh, River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey! They’re a pair of linked novellas set in an alternate history US where there is a tradition of domesticating hippos, and the protagonists are essentially hippo-riding cowboys/outlaws.
posted by ActionPopulated at 5:52 PM on March 1, 2023 [1 favorite]

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