What would it feel like to be raised by a skilled con artist? Would you know when she was pulling a con on you?
Twenty-seven-year-old Jackie Paz knows too much about her mother’s life to trust her, which is why she’s struck out on her own, as a straight, a drone. Her mother, Maida, has tracked Jackie down to a small town in southern California, trying in her own way to set the past right, at just the wrong moment in Jackie’s life.
Jackie is a complete disappointment to Maida. She’s got a calm steady job transporting troubled kids to and from institutions with her partner, Graham. She enjoys making her way as an honest citizen. Maida would rather slit her wrists than live this way. But when Maida gets out of jail she wants nothing more than to try to patch things up with her last living relative – and run one last great con while she’s in town.
Only the reunion starts off all wrong: Jackie and Graham lose their jobs when their last teen transfer turns up dead. Now Graham is sliding fast into a bottle while Jackie is stretching the last of her money without taking any of her mom’s con cash, while at the same time trying to unravel the death of the teen that cost her her sense of purpose and belonging. Maida’s struggling to tie up a grand con that is unraveling faster than she can stitch it back together. When the dead boy’s parents end up equally dead, the sister missing, Jackie, Graham and Maida all find themselves drawn into a family drama that dwarfs the one between Jackie and Maida. Before the two women can even begin to find some neutral ground between con and confidence, they’re going to need to use their skills and their connections just stay alive, let alone out of the hands of the police.
And one of them is going home with Graham.
Modern Cons is a character-driven novel of suspense targeting several distinct but often overlapping markets. Suspense readers can follow the crime, while others can be absorbed by the tension of secrets buried between mothers and daughters. The world of cons enthralls on TV and the movies: “The Riches,” “Catch Me if You Can,” and Mamet’s “House of Cards.” The schemes in Modern Cons are for those who’ve lapped up every word regarding the Madoffs, as well as those who have wondered what those kids are doing selling overpriced boxes of candy door-to-door. Through it all is also a daughter to root for as she distances herself from her mother, and finds herself in the process.
Désirée Zamorano, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has sold fiction and nonfiction online and in print. Her short story “Mercy” was published by the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine while Amy Tan was the fiction editor; her plays have had Equity productions and toured for four years. At Occidental College she runs a center similar to Dave Eggers’ 826 NYC. Désirée also knows her way around family drama, secrets and manipulations. While she won’t confess to any specific cons she does understand the personal dynamics and possibilities of the game.