Perfect Scoundrels

Review written by Jeff Dougan.

In Perfect Scoundrels, we open with Kat, Hale, & Gabrielle working a job in Buenos Aires. Kat thought she and Hale were settling into a boyfriend & girlfriend relationship, but when Marcus tells Hale something mid-heist that causes Hale to leave Kat literally dangling in midair, she has to wonder whether she was wrong.

A New York newspaper reveals that Hale’s grandmother has died, and a discreet contact from Marcus suggests that Kat should be at the wake. Kat ends up meeting one of Hale’s few childhood friends and much of his family before Hale finds her. The confusion from Buenos Aires continues when Hale doesn’t introduce Kat as his girlfriend, but just as somebody he knows from the boarding school he made up after getting kicked out of the last one. Those people named in Hazel’s will—including W. W. Hale V—get called away to hear it read, and return in a bit of an uproar. The whole of Hale Industries has been placed in trust for W. W. Hale V, with the family lawyer being named the administrator until Hale turns 25.

Marcus drives Kat home from the party—to his home, actually. We meet Marcus’ sister Marianne, who was Hazel’s maid for decades, and was neglected in the will. Because Hazel & Marianne had recently been discussing that Hazel had made provisions for Marianne in her will, the nature of which were unknown to Marianne, the servants believe that the will has been tampered with. Although Marianne is reluctant to be involved with something so unseemly, Marcus charges Kat and the rest of her crew (excepting Hale) to find out what happened.

Step one is trying to find a copy of the original will in Hazel’s desk. It’s not just a desk, it’s a desk with many hidden compartments. In a bit of “small world” irony, that desk is now on display at—of all places—the Henley. Unfortunately for Kat & Simon, in the four months since the Henley job, the museum has patched the holes they’d exploited the last time. Because Kat needs to count on several hours to find and open the hidden compartment(s), she needs to “pull a Basil E. Frankweiler” [1] while the Bagshaws move the desk to the only room not covered by security. She’s just gotten started when she has to suddenly hide from Hale and the family lawyer. From her hidden vantage point, Kat can see the lawyer remove something from the desk before they leave. Kat’s continued searching unearths the carbon paper from what appears to be a termination letter for the lawyer, and she’s pretty sure he snagged the copy of the will, too.

As Kat and the crew learn that the lawyer appears to have doctored the will and plans to profit handsomely from destroying Hale Industries, it’s up to them to try to stop the plans, preferably without Hale finding out. And when he inevitably does find out, they have to decide how (if at all) to involve him, even if it means risking their friendship with him.

After learning the details of the lawyer’s plans, Kat and company try to fight him on two fronts—first, trying to replace his fake technological gadget with a working copy of the real one and second, trying to delay the execution of his plans enough to put him past his primary window of opportunity. Even calling all of Kat’s family into the job in order to pull off a dead con might not be enough to stop an opponent who’s not only onto them, but able to use some of their own tricks against them.

As always, I won’t spoil too much more. See below the possible trouble spots for an overall recommendation.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid

Shades of Gray

This is the most black-and-white of the Heist books. The principal reason Kat & company have to be sneaky is to prevent Hale Industries from being tanked before they can stop it, but out of any of the outings so far, they’re most obviously in the right this time. But, as is always true of a caper story, the good guys are still bad guys to at least a small degree. If you’re not comfortable with your kid’s ability to deal with that fact, you don’t want them reading this yet.


This is the book that most overtly emphasizes the importance of family. Kat gets to see Hale’s other family for the first time, but also discovers that Uncle Eddie (at least) has come to see this stray that Kat dragged into their midst as family, too. [2] Although Hazel cared about Hale very much, his parents’ treatment of him can be called benign neglect at best. And every member of Kat’s family that we’ve heard of or can infer gets involved. There’s a great contrast between Kat’s tightly-knit family that isn’t always related by blood to Hale’s sprawling family of blood relatives who don’t care about each other much, if at all.

They also serve who only stand and wait

The ultimate background movers in the plot are two people who belong to families that have served the Hales for somewhere between decades and generations. Although I don’t think that a tween reader will pick up on this contrast, I found it interesting, and it at least sets up some questions you can talk about later. Two that readily spring to mind are “Why do you think Marcus & Marianne kept the family’s best interests at heart in spite of the way that most of the Hales treated their servants?” and “If the Hales at treated the Garrett family better, would he still have tried to steal the Genesis device?”


I’d recommend this to older tweens (maybe 11 – 12) who enjoy mysteries or action movies but I’d also definitely suggest they start with the series in order. However, I feel like this book is the weakest of the series for a couple of reasons. First, this is the first book to reincorporate incidents or locations from previous books, making it less able to stand on its own than either of the first two. In addition, there’s a more explicit focus on Kat and Hale’s personal relationship in addition to their working one, and I think it pulls the attention away from the heist planning and execution that characterized the first two books.

[1] In a bit of ironic timing, I was reading this when the news of E.L. Konigsburg’s death became public.

[2] Uncle Eddie gets my favorite line of the whole book in the following exchange:

Uncle Eddie: “That boy has a powerful family.”

Kat replies something to the effect of “what are we going to do about them?”

Uncle Eddie: “Who says I was talking about them?”

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter
Published in 2103 by Hyperion Books
Book 3 of the Heist Society series (following Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals)

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