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Matchstick Men: A Novel of Petty Crimes Hardcover – December 3, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Villard; 1 edition (December 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375505229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375505225
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,881,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If you're a con artist, is there anyone you can trust? That's the question for the protagonists of this stylish but somewhat hollow novel by Garcia (Anonymous Rex). Roy is a careful, fiscally prudent and emotionally barren con man suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder-really suffering, now that his psychiatrist has left town and Roy has run out of his medication. Frankie, his partner, spends wildly and always wants to pull just one more scam. The trouble begins when Frankie introduces Roy to Dr. Klein, a well-meaning psychiatrist who aims to do more than merely dispense pills and who ends up reuniting Roy with the daughter he never knew he had. Fourteen-year-old Angela is far from angelic as she worms her way into Roy's life (not unlike Tatum O'Neal's character in the movie Paper Moon, but without her sheen of innocence). Set in an unnamed American city and told in clipped, streetwise prose, the novel is ingeniously plotted (the ending is a real surprise), though the scams themselves aren't as clever as one might hope. More seriously, in spite of the detailed descriptions of their neuroses, Roy and Frankie are underdeveloped; Roy delivers a few funny interior monologues, and there's some crackling dialogue, but these bad guys don't quite gel into memorable characters. The title apparently refers to a slang term for con men, but reading about Roy and Frankie, one can't help thinking of its other association: stick figures.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

On the basis of his first two novels, Casual Rex and Anonymous Rex, Garcia established himself as a cult favorite. For his third outing, he sheds the dinosaur trappings to deliver a straightforward variation on The Sting that combines elements of The Odd Couple and Paper Moon to create what could be his breakout book. Matchstick men are con artists, represented here by Roy and Frankie, two masters of "the game." With the easy facility of a veteran vaudeville team, they hone their various routines, making sure to keep their private lives separate. Roy is the obsessive one of the pair, forever swallowing pills to stabilize his disorders, zoning in on the dirt that lurks in the carpet, and squirreling away his share of the team's take. Frankie scatters his money freely and is constantly on the prowl for more of everything. When Roy discovers that he is the father of a 14-year-old daughter who is interested in the family business, it just might be the wedge that drives the team apart. By the time the final con is played, we recognize that we're in the hands of yet another master of "the game." The film adaptation starring Nicholas Cage and directed by Ridley Scott, scheduled for release next summer, should serve to hype what is already a winner. For all public libraries.
Bob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

The Characters were well written and the ending was a great touch.
Amazon Customer
It reminded me of the last Grisham book I read - again expecting a different ending and just taken by surprise.
Unfortunately I found that this novel is all about the plot, and the character development lacks.
Brian Ganas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anna Klein on February 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Roy and Frankie are partners in con, ripping off everyone who crosses their paths from college kids to home making women to greedy men. But Roy is also suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Frankie hooks him up with psychiatrist Dr. Klein so he can get the pills he needs. Dr. Klein in turn hooks Roy up with a daughter he never knew he had. Angela, fourteen, is eager to have a dad and wants to learn all about his job. Pretty soon she's helping. Pretty soon Roy wants to give up all his tricks in order to gain custody of her, but Frankie convinces him they should play the con game one more time ... just one more time.
MATCHSTICK MEN is one of the best books I have read this spring. It is fast, full of twists and cons, cleanly and cleverly plotted, and peopled with characters who, while not brilliant, are sturdy enough to hold up their ends of the book. Angela especially will keep you reading. For me, the ending was a complete surprise and it left me thinking the whole book through again from a different angle. I found it a resounding and fitting wrapup for a book of cons, hinted at but unexpected.
If you like fast, absorbing, perfectly plotted little books of petty crime with a twist, MATCHSTICK MEN is a treasure I couldn't recommend more highly.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Louis N. Gruber VINE VOICE on January 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Author Eric Garcia has written two previous books in which hard-boiled private eye Vincent Rubio is actually a dinosaur in disguise. No dinosaurs in his latest masterpiece but two sleazy con artists who are very good at taking money from others by all kinds of clever scams. Roy and Frankie are very good at what they do, in spite of Roy's obsessive compulsive disorder and hypochondriasis. The book becomes really interesting when Roy's long lost daughter from a failed marriage turns up and begins to change his life.
What will happen next? The plot takes a number of surprising twists and turns and carries you along, unable to put the book down, until the surprise ending that blew me away. While some of the reviewers found the ending obvious, I must be a good "mark" because I fell for it completely.
This book is not for everyone. It is not uplifting or redeeming. It is about some very bad people doing very bad things, but it is extremely well-written, fast-moving, entertaining and engaging. It has a lot of interesting information about scams and flimflams. Sometimes it is funny. But nothing like dinosaurs. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. Hirt on February 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Eric Garcia's series about a dinosaur detective, ANOMYMOUS REX & CASUAL REX, are totally different from his MATCHSTICK MEN, except for the fact they are all humorous. Roy & Frankie have been partners as con artists (matchstick men) for years. They are at opposite ends of the pole. Roy saves his money, planning for his retirement, (He doesn't trust banks; he keeps his money in a horse in his living room.) takes his medication regularly for his obsessive-compulsive disorder, & is very careful, except evidently during his brief marriage years ago. He finds out he has a teenage daughter who now wants to come stay with him & learn the trade. Frankie is just the opposite; he is willing to take chances. He wants to make a big score so he can get some money. They usually do their business in places, like restaurants, etc, on a small scale. Frankie isn't thrilled about having Roy's daughter sit in on some action, in fact he is downright opposed to it. But when a girl makes up her mind, what is a father to do? The big question here is can a con man be conned?
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Format: Hardcover
When obsessive compulsive con-man Roy learns that he has a daughter from a long abandoned marriage, it changes his life. Despite objections from his partner, Frankie, Roy insists on including his daughter on some of their scams, teaching her the tricks of the game. Frankie resists, reminding Roy that this violates Roy's rules, but Roy is transformed. Maybe he'll even turn over a new leaf, get a real job, and join life as a mark rather than as a grifter.
Author Eric Garcia does a fine job describing the cons and making Roy sympathetic even as he systematically steals thousands of dollars from people who can ill-afford to lose their money. Roy's occasional attacks of ethics, and his growing affection for his daughter, as well as his emotional problems with obsessive compulsion disorder give him a degree of complexity.
The key characteristic of a good con is that the mark doesn't see it coming. Readers may fault MATCHSTICK MEN in this. The plot may twist and turn, but the destination is telegraphed early. Few fans of the genre are likely to be surprised by the ending of this novel.
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Format: Hardcover
Eric Garcia's two previous "Rex" novels were wonderful; fast-paced, intelligent, and absurdly believable. "Matchstick Men" begins in the same tradition. The characters are only sketched out, but how much do we really need to know about two con-men? Once Angela is introduced, the book takes off. She is the real star of the book, and Nicholas Cage is going to be severely upstaged by her character in the movie (and rightly so!)
The biggest disappointment I had was with the ending. I won't give it away, but suffice it to say that it was sufficiently jarring and out of character to ruin the rest of the novel for me. The first 220 pages get five stars, the last ten get only one.
I do think, however, that the book is full of the same promise that Garcia showcased so well in the Rex books, and I am eager to read "Hot and Sweaty Rex" when it comes out in 2003.
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