Publisher: Orion (Trade Paperback – 8 December 2020)
Series: Riley Wolfe – Book Two
Length: 357 pages
My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
Superstar thriller writer Jeff Lindsay presents his second entry in the awesome Riley Wolfe series, Fool Me Twice, which sees a master thief attempt to pull off a truly impossible heist.
Riley Wolfe is the world’s greatest thief and heist artist, able to steal the most heavily guarded artefacts and treasures no matter their security or value. However, he is about to face a task that may prove to be too difficult even for him to accomplish after he is kidnapped at the end of his latest heist and taken to a desolate remote island. His kidnapper, the world’s most dangerous and powerful arms dealer, wants Riley to steal one of the world’s greatest artworks, The Liberation of St. Peter by Raphael. Unfortunately for Riley, The Liberation of St. Peter is a fresco, a massive painting plastered onto a wall in the interior of the Vatican.
Despite how ridiculous the job appears to be, Riley has no choice but to accept it, especially as his refusal would result in a prolonged and painful death. With his head still spinning over the impossibility of the task in front of him, Riley’s life becomes even more complicated when he is kidnapped a second time by another deadly arms dealer. His new kidnapper offers Riley the chance to double-cross his first employer in exchange for the life of Monique, Riley’s close associate and love interest.
Caught between two deadly opponents, each of whom would not hesitate to kill everyone Riley knows and cares about, Riley finds himself in the ultimate no win scenario. Determined to survive no matter the cost, Riley begins to come up with a new plan that could save his and Monique’s lives, even if it does mean attracting the attention of an old rival in the FBI. But in order for his plan to succeed, Riley and Monique will need to achieve the impossible and steal the fresco from the Vatican. Can the legendary Riley Wolfe pull of his greatest heist yet, or has he finally met a caper too insane for even him?
Fool Me Twice is an exciting and addictive thriller novel from Jeff Lindsay, the author best known for the murderous Dexter series. Following the conclusion of his Dexter books, Lindsay has started writing a brand-new series which focuses on a whole new criminal protagonist, Riley Wolfe. The Riley Wolfe series follows the titular character as he engages in a series of elaborate and high-stakes heists around the world. The first entry in this series, Just Watch Me, was a fantastic and fun novel which saw the protagonist steal a major treasure that was under the protection of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. I absolutely loved Just Watch Me and I have been extremely eager to check out the second entry in this series for some time. I am very glad that I received a copy of this book and I ended up really enjoying Fool Me Twice due to its entertaining and thrilling story.
Just like the first entry in the Riley Wolfe series, Fool Me Twice was an exciting and enjoyable romp that sees its complex protagonist attempt to pull off an incredible heist. Lindsay has come up with a pretty epic scenario revolving around an impossible art heist within the Vatican, which by itself would be fun to read. However, this time Riley also has to contend with the competing interests of two ruthless arms dealers who are using him as a pawn for their deadly game. This proved to be a fantastic and compelling thriller story that is extremely easy to read and fall in love with. The author does an excellent job setting up the entire plot, and the protagonist is forced into a high-stakes, no-win scenario pretty early on in the book. The rest of the story then deals with Riley trying to extricate himself from this situation through a vast range of manipulations, tricks, third-person interference and the impossible heist with a twist. This all comes together quite well into an enjoyable and intricate narrative, and I love the various places that the author took the story. There are some great surprises and reveals throughout the novel, and the readers are constantly left on the edge of their seats as they try to figure out what is going to happen next. I particularly loved the cool heist that formed the centre of this story, and Lindsay did a good job delivering on this amazing premise with a great plan and a clever conclusion. While I was able to predict how part of the heist would go, I was a little surprised about the full plan, and it was really cool to see the entire thing unfold. Overall, this proved to be an amazing and exciting narrative, and I really enjoyed seeing the various twists and turns that the author was able to weave into the story.
One of the most distinctive elements about this series is the protagonist, Riley Wolfe, the master thief whose exploits the novels follow. Riley is an interesting figure who, on the exterior, appears to be a brilliant Robin-Hood-esque figure, stealing from the rich, who he has a pathological hatred of. However, it does not take long for the reader to work out that Riley is pretty much a pure arsehole with psychopathic tendencies. Nearly everything Riley did in this novel annoyed me to a certain degree as he manipulates, insults or flat out murders everyone he comes into contact with. While the author utilises a number of different perspectives throughout Fool Me Twice, Lindsay makes sure to write all of Riley’s chapters from the first-person perspective, ensuring that the reader gets a look into his mind as he works. While this does help to redeem the character in some ways, especially as you get a hint about how much he cares about his mother or Monique, the unfiltered thoughts running through his head mostly make you dislike the character even more. Pure arrogance rains off the page every time Riley’s perspective is shown, and you get a real sense of how high an opinion the guy has of himself. Worse, you also see how much of a psychopath that Riley truly is as he murders several people throughout the novel, often in quite brutal ways. While perhaps one or two of his victims deserved their fates, most definitely did not, they were merely in Riley’s way, for which he makes no apologies. Instead he merely offers up some half-arsed rationalisations, most of which are usually along the lines that the victim was rich, so they deserved to suffer. All of this makes Riley Wolfe a very hard character to root for, and I think this is what the author intended. The reader becomes addicted to the narrative, not because they want him to succeed (if only to save his friends), but because that are hoping that he fails in some way and gets his long-deserved comeuppance. I personally think this is a great writing choice from Lindsay, which makes for an excellent read; it is always fun to see a book told from a villain’s perspective, even if said villain is a dick. I look forward to seeing what the character gets up to in the next book, which will no doubt irritate me to some degree.
Fool Me Twice is filled with a great collection of supporting characters, pretty much all of whom become worse off after meeting the protagonist. The most notable of these is returning character Monique, Riley’s costumer, art forger and strongly unrequited love interest. Monique gets a lot more involved in the plot of Fool Me Twice than she did in the first novel, with circumstances forcing her to take an active role in the heist. You really can’t help but feel sorry for Monique throughout this novel, as she gets into all manner of trouble thanks to Riley and has to constantly deal with his bad behaviour and condescending attitude. Thanks to the author portraying her as an out-of-her-depth and terrified art genius, she is the main reason you hope that Riley succeeds, although she still ends up going through a lot of bad stuff in this book. In addition to Monique, Fool Me Twice also sees the return of Special Agent Frank Delgado, the brilliant FBI agent who is obsessed with capturing Riley. Despite his somewhat odd and dedicated personality, Delgado is another character you find yourself rooting for, mainly because you hope he finally catches up with his white whale and arrests him. Delgado has another interesting arc in this novel, which sees his obsession with Riley become a useful tool for several other characters in the novel, and I imagine we will be seeing a lot more of him in future entries in the series (although I imagine Riley will eventually end up killing him).
There are several intriguing new characters featured throughout the novel. These new characters are generally only featured for a few chapters and are mostly used as outside witnesses to Riley’s heist methods, which help to keep the readers guessing at how he is actually pulling it off. The main antagonists of the novel are an interesting bunch. I was not the biggest fans of the two competing arms dealers, although their rivalry and manipulation of Riley helped to create a very interesting plot scenario. I personally quite liked the character of Bernadette, one of the arms dealer’s bodyguards, who was essentially a female Terminator. Bernadette is a particularly intimidating woman, who manages to consistently put Riley in his place and ensure that he is nowhere near as cocky as he usually is, and she ends up being an extremely dangerous and relentless antagonist. If I had to complain about any of the characters it would probably be the mysterious Betty/Evelyn, who becomes an ally of Riley. I felt that this character was severely underdeveloped; despite seeing several scenes from her perspective as she plays a key role in the plot, you end up knowing very little about her or what she does. While part of this is due to the character constantly changing identities, I do think that the author could have explored her more or explained her role in the heist better, although perhaps this lack of identity will come into play in a future Riley Wolfe novel.
Fool Me Twice by Jeff Lindsay was a fantastic and captivating read that sees the author’s new antihero, Riley Wolfe, engage in a more heist-based shenanigans. This second Riley Wolfe novel had an excellent and fun story that was really easy to enjoy and which was enhanced by several great characters, including one unlikeable main protagonist. I had an amazing time getting through this cool book and it is definitely recommended for anyone interested in an exciting and compelling thriller. I look forward to seeing what unique heist situation Lindsay comes up with in his next book, but I am sure it will be something extremely memorable and really fun.