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The Con Artist

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This illustrated mystery will appeal to comic book fans and anyone who appreciates an unconventional whodunit. Comic book artist Mike Mason arrives at San Diego Comic-Con, seeking sanctuary with other fans and creators—and maybe to reunite with his ex—but when his rival is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. To clear his name, Mike will have to navigate every corn This illustrated mystery will appeal to comic book fans and anyone who appreciates an unconventional whodunit. Comic book artist Mike Mason arrives at San Diego Comic-Con, seeking sanctuary with other fans and creators—and maybe to reunite with his ex—but when his rival is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. To clear his name, Mike will have to navigate every corner of the con, from zombie obstacle courses and cosplay flash mobs to intrusive fans and obsessive collectors, in the process unraveling a dark secret behind one of the industry’s most legendary creators.


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This illustrated mystery will appeal to comic book fans and anyone who appreciates an unconventional whodunit. Comic book artist Mike Mason arrives at San Diego Comic-Con, seeking sanctuary with other fans and creators—and maybe to reunite with his ex—but when his rival is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. To clear his name, Mike will have to navigate every corn This illustrated mystery will appeal to comic book fans and anyone who appreciates an unconventional whodunit. Comic book artist Mike Mason arrives at San Diego Comic-Con, seeking sanctuary with other fans and creators—and maybe to reunite with his ex—but when his rival is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect. To clear his name, Mike will have to navigate every corner of the con, from zombie obstacle courses and cosplay flash mobs to intrusive fans and obsessive collectors, in the process unraveling a dark secret behind one of the industry’s most legendary creators.

30 review for The Con Artist

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sam Quixote

    Some comics professional got murdered at San Diego Comic Con - whodunit? The real question is: who cares? Because Fred Van Lente’s novel The Con Artist is utter rubbish - a failed attempt at a nerd-flavoured murder mystery that only ever bores. The book is less about the murder mystery as it is about Van Lente droning on about the comics industry. How creators back in the day got screwed, toxic fandoms, how underappreciated comics pros are, the crass commercialisation of San Diego Comic Con, bla Some comics professional got murdered at San Diego Comic Con - whodunit? The real question is: who cares? Because Fred Van Lente’s novel The Con Artist is utter rubbish - a failed attempt at a nerd-flavoured murder mystery that only ever bores. The book is less about the murder mystery as it is about Van Lente droning on about the comics industry. How creators back in the day got screwed, toxic fandoms, how underappreciated comics pros are, the crass commercialisation of San Diego Comic Con, blah blah blah. There’s definitely some weight behind it all as Van Lente has been a comics writer for many years, having written everything from his creator-owned indies to the heavyweight IPs of Marvel, but he focuses way too much on that aspect of the story to the point where it supplants it entirely. Also, as a lifelong comics fan myself, I’ve heard a lot of this ranting before so it came off as inane, repetitive and unoriginal. I could’ve forgiven some of that if the murder mystery was any good - and it wasn’t. There’s zero tension as you already know our protagonist - comics artist Mike - didn’t do it, and the cops don’t really think he did either. There are no clues for the reader themselves to try and figure it out. Then nothing further happens until the final act when Mike happens to stumble across the actual murderer, who conveniently exposits enough to fill in all the necessary blanks just in time for the ending. Pointless, contrived, dull, uninspired writing. None of the subplots went anywhere - the rickshaw driver was a half-assed attempt at romance, the uber-fan who might’ve done it, the two Aryan Brotherhood bikers who came out of nowhere - nor are any of the characters at all memorable or interesting. Tom Fowler pointlessly contributes some scratchy art that added nothing. The endless descriptions of the pop culture makeup of SDCC gave me flashbacks to that godawful novel Armada by Ernest Cline where Cline spent pages reeling off pop culture references for the tedious sake of it - it’s no better when Van Lente does the same thing. I get it, SDCC is pop culture at its most hyper-gaudy, stop describing it already and try to do something with the plot! I was mildly interested in trying to figure out which real-life comics pros Van Lente was caricaturing - I think the murder victim was meant to be former DC editor Eddie Berganza, going by his sleazy past of sexual harassment of female co-workers - and it’s not hard to figure out which character is meant to be former Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter. But that only speaks to the inside baseball nature of this book. Its insularity means it’s not going to appeal to anyone uninterested in comics and not really to comics readers either as it’s not good! And, not that all comics readers don’t read “real” books, but quite a few don’t so the audience for this one is about as small as you can get! The Con Artist is just a bad novel that’s not half as good as Fred Van Lente’s effort last year, Ten Dead Comedians, and even that was mediocre at best! He’s a fine comics writer but a good novelist he is not.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Chaney

    I was sent a copy of The Con Artist in exchange for an honest review. The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente follows Mike Mason, a formally famous, now homeless comic book artist who spends his life traveling from Comic-Con to Comic-Con. When a murder occurs at the San Diego Con, the police begin to connect the murder to Mike. Thus begins a weekend-long romp of Comic-Con insanity to expose the killer and clear his name. The murder mystery sub-genre is pretty cut-and-dry when you get down to it: a murder I was sent a copy of The Con Artist in exchange for an honest review. The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente follows Mike Mason, a formally famous, now homeless comic book artist who spends his life traveling from Comic-Con to Comic-Con. When a murder occurs at the San Diego Con, the police begin to connect the murder to Mike. Thus begins a weekend-long romp of Comic-Con insanity to expose the killer and clear his name. The murder mystery sub-genre is pretty cut-and-dry when you get down to it: a murder occurs and someone must track down said murderer. Simple and familiar, sometimes effective, but almost always an entertaining ride. The Con Artist is exactly that, but there is something that makes it unique: nerd culture. Yours truly has never attended a Comic-Con before, as I am quite the introvert and find large crowds to be unpleasant and, frankly, annoying. Too much noise, too many smells, too much energy, too many lines... Basically, a big part of what Comic-Con is. However, as a nerd, there are aspects of it I find appealing, so The Con Artist was a nice way to experience Comic-Con without actually putting strain on my social battery. I'm sure a lot of you can relate. That being said, The Con Artist was still a bit exhausting because you have the chaos of three different parts moving at once: the murder mystery, Mike Mason's personal life, and the Comic-Con itself. Fred Van Lente does a mostly decent job of organizing it all and keeping the reader on their toes, but it does feel a bit busy at times... much like an actual Con. Therefore, it should be obvious that if you aren't a die-hard nerd or don't find Comic-Con appealing, this novel probably isn't for you. There are dozens upon dozens of references to pop culture, so you really need to know your stuff before going in. Speaking of references, there are a few that gave me pause while reading, things I've never seen in a novel before. For instance, toward the beginning of the book there is reference to the first season of HBO's Westworld coming to Blu-ray later this year. This stuck out like a pop-up ad on Buzzfeed, even though you know for a fact your ad-blocker is enabled. I don't know if this was an actual paid advertisement or not, but regardless it felt like product placement to me. There were a few instances like this, and they were pretty distracting from the story. Again, I don't know if this was actual product placement, but I could have done without it. Otherwise--entertaining, funny, and smart--The Con Artist is a truly unique spin on the mystery genre. Mike Mason is a character readers can root for, and it is through his perspective that Van Lente gives an interesting commentary on the comic book industry, making some truly hard-hitting points about its creators and the endless cycle that turns them out and spits them back out. It's not pretty when you think about it, and Fred Van Lente really makes you think. Recommended. OVERALL, 3.5 STARS.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Penelope

    *5/5 STARS* The Con Artist is an Adult Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente. The story follows comic book artist, Mike Mason as he lands in San Diego to attend this year’s Comic-Con. Being a comic book artist, Mike has an open invitation to attend Comic-Con every year and because Mike has recently separated from his wife and is basically living from con-to-con, he attends as many as he can in order to support himself. As well as a way to avoid settling down. Soon after arriving at Comic-Con, Mike finds *5/5 STARS* The Con Artist is an Adult Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente. The story follows comic book artist, Mike Mason as he lands in San Diego to attend this year’s Comic-Con. Being a comic book artist, Mike has an open invitation to attend Comic-Con every year and because Mike has recently separated from his wife and is basically living from con-to-con, he attends as many as he can in order to support himself. As well as a way to avoid settling down. Soon after arriving at Comic-Con, Mike finds himself in a very unfortunate situation when he becomes the prime suspect in a former co-worker’s murder. Not only is the murdered man Mike’s former co-worker, but he is also the man that Mike’s wife left him for. Hence the prime suspect situation. From there, this book basically chronicles Mike's adventures and misadventures as he tries to prove his innocence by hunting down his lone alibi and teaming up with friends and former co-workers to try and track down the real killer. Okay, so let's talk characters. Mike is hilarious in a way that many people might overlook. He’s got this kind of dry, sardonic sense of humor that I adore. Probably because I myself have been told that I have the same kind of sense of humor. In fact, yes, I'm just gonna go ahead and say it: I whole-heartedly consider Mike to be a brother from another mother. As much as I adored Mike, the side characters were just as great. This is not the kind of book that has boring, one-dimensional characters thrown throughout as a filler. Each and every one was just as hilarious and memorable. The writing was smart, funny and so easy to read. I wasn’t expecting this book to be as funny as it was, but it honestly had me laughing the whole way through. Pacing was also fantastic. I never felt bored or like I was getting info dump on unnecessary topics. It was as solid a read as I can recommend if you're looking for a quirky, murder-mystery. However, if you’re not a nerd, The Con Artist probably isn’t the book for you. Fortunately for me, I am the nerdiest of nerds and understood each and every pop culture reference and enjoyed this book immensely. I will definitely be looking into more of Fred Van Lente’s work in the near future. (Thank you again to Quirk Books for sending me an advanced reader’s copy of this book!)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Roz

    Ugh.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I received an ARC from the publisher because working at the library is the best. Crime and Comic Con are two of my favorite things (especially if I don't have to moderate a panel), so this was right up my alley. Clever and witty with lots of geek easter eggs, cosplay, zombie prison breaks, and of course because this is 2018, Nazis, and the requisite twistyness is entirely plausible instead of ridiculous. A fine homage to being a nerd that doesn't gloss over some of the issues specific to women ne I received an ARC from the publisher because working at the library is the best. Crime and Comic Con are two of my favorite things (especially if I don't have to moderate a panel), so this was right up my alley. Clever and witty with lots of geek easter eggs, cosplay, zombie prison breaks, and of course because this is 2018, Nazis, and the requisite twistyness is entirely plausible instead of ridiculous. A fine homage to being a nerd that doesn't gloss over some of the issues specific to women nerds. My only issue is probably ARC-related (view spoiler)[that it seems like there are meant to be clues in the illustrations but the drawings are so raw they're hard to find, but I'm assuming that they'll be cleaner when this is published (hide spoiler)] . The top end of three stars.

  6. 3 out of 5

    Carol

    To be published in time for SDCC, The Con Artist is a hilarious mystery where a slightly washed-up comics artist is blamed for the death of his bitter rival. It's important to note that both the author and illustrator are seasoned comics veterans and that really shines through the pages. I've only been to one big comic con (ECCC, big but not nearly as big as SDCC I know) but I relived some of my experiences (lines! getting to meet rad artists in Artists' Alley! awesome cosplayers!) while reading To be published in time for SDCC, The Con Artist is a hilarious mystery where a slightly washed-up comics artist is blamed for the death of his bitter rival. It's important to note that both the author and illustrator are seasoned comics veterans and that really shines through the pages. I've only been to one big comic con (ECCC, big but not nearly as big as SDCC I know) but I relived some of my experiences (lines! getting to meet rad artists in Artists' Alley! awesome cosplayers!) while reading this book. In getting the con experience right, and in highlighting the details that only the people on the other side of the table (comics professionals) would experience, the author holds up con culture, nerd culture, and the entire comics industry for scrutiny. Pay attention to the social commentary, especially surrounding the darker side of comics where artists' original intellectual properties become absorbed by mega publishers and where no health care is to be found for these artists and writers who brought so much joy to children and adults through their staple-bound pages. The text is lightly peppered with sketches from the main character's notebook, and I figured there would probably be clues in them that the reader should try to interpret to determine whodunnit. The MC, Mike, occasionally recalls a clue from one of his sketches, but once or twice he recalled details I could not discern from the sketches I saw. Either I'm really bad at this (likely) or the sketches in the ARC are preliminary and will have more detail provided in the final copy. There was just one thing that bugged me: there's a paragraph after Mike gets into [someone's] previously locked phone where he then changes a setting so the phone never goes sleep so that he can get back in again. Why doesn't he just change the password, or remove the lock screen entirely? It's a detail that doesn't further the plot but it does frustrate the reader. Other than that, this book was perfect and exactly what I hoped it would be! I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.

  7. 3 out of 5

    Bandit

    I’ve never been to a comic con. I’d be interested to go, but not enough to warrant the cost of admission, so a literary trip it is, then. Enhanced all the more by its San Diego location, another place I’ve never been, but would definitely be worth the money. Franky, the eponymous protagonist of this oh so punnily titled novel might have wished he’d never gone to this particular comic con. But it’s what he does, no steady residence, just traveling con to con since his marriage ended, doing his ar I’ve never been to a comic con. I’d be interested to go, but not enough to warrant the cost of admission, so a literary trip it is, then. Enhanced all the more by its San Diego location, another place I’ve never been, but would definitely be worth the money. Franky, the eponymous protagonist of this oh so punnily titled novel might have wished he’d never gone to this particular comic con. But it’s what he does, no steady residence, just traveling con to con since his marriage ended, doing his art. Usually it’s pretty smooth sailing, but this time it’s murder. Several murders, actually. And he just may be the main suspect. So he sets off on his own investigation to prove his innocence and ends up tangled with an unsavory bunch of desperate artists, greedy businessman and neo Nazis, among others. It isn’t all fun at the comic con. But it is very entertaining. Despite some grim goings on, the novel maintains a lighthearted tone, even occasionally humorous. And it gives a very good inside tour of the comic industry and comic cons, it’s a nerdy delight, but never too nerdy for general population who doesn’t care for stories with pictures. In fact this book has some pictures of its own, just sketches really, pretty unnecessary, didn’t seem to add a thing to the overall production, but presumably it’s to help readers gets inside the protagonist’s mind. Well, that’s what books do in general, so let’s say more so, albeit not every picture’s worth a thousand words. Anyway, this was a fun quick read. You don’t have to be a fan of comic books to enjoy it, but if you are, it’ll probably add another dimension to the reading experience. Thanks Netgalley.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fizah(Books tales by me)

    This book is not my type...It is filled with the terms I don't have any idea what are these. DNFing it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    2.5 stars- all of the elements of this were things that I should love, but it just didn't come together in a way that I personally enjoyed. I think the humor attempts didn't quite work for me... but to be fair, noir in general is a little bit of a hard sell for me anyways, so that may have impacted my experience. If you like noir and comic culture, I think this is worth a try

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Actual Rating: 2.5 stars I really wanted to love this book, and I had a kind of hard time deciding how to rate it. The Con Artist is a murder mystery set at San Diego Comic Con from the perspective of a comic book artist who is off his game, divorced, and basically lives at conventions. The premise sounded amazing, and there are things to like here, but ultimately the negatives pulled the rating down for me. What I liked: - References to lots of very specific geeky things - In depth background on t Actual Rating: 2.5 stars I really wanted to love this book, and I had a kind of hard time deciding how to rate it. The Con Artist is a murder mystery set at San Diego Comic Con from the perspective of a comic book artist who is off his game, divorced, and basically lives at conventions. The premise sounded amazing, and there are things to like here, but ultimately the negatives pulled the rating down for me. What I liked: - References to lots of very specific geeky things - In depth background on the history of comics - Sometimes funny and clever writing - A decent plot that takes jabs at predatory corporate behavior What I didn't like: - A narrator who can indulge in too much navel-gazing - A tone of thinly veiled condescension toward a lot of fans and fandoms - Occasionally offensive language and plot points with regards to race, mental disability, former prisoners, and probably more. Overall, reading this book felt a bit like navigating a minefield. I might be enjoying the story when suddenly something would be said or something would happen that would feel uncomfortable or offensive. And if this just happened once or twice, I would probably brush it off and give it a pass. But it was a consistent issue throughout the book. Among some of the more egregious ones: - Having a Latina character with one arm who could have been really inspiring, but instead is used as a mentally unstable plot device. - Poking fun at fans on the autism spectrum - Making a group of former convicts into racist Nazi criminals So I can understand why people might enjoy this book, but these issues just detracted too much from the story for me. It had a lot of potential, but it was a miss for me. I read an advance copy of this book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A mystery sent at a Comic Con, sign me up. The best-selling point of this novel are the inside jokes about culture – the LOTR references, Star Wars, Cosplay. There are even some interesting points about how it is a Comic Con but most people seem to think that comics are no longer being published. A convention to celebrate something and that thing gets pushed to the margins. Mike Mason is a comic artist who makes his living by going to cons. He is currently unemployed by a publisher. At the most A mystery sent at a Comic Con, sign me up. The best-selling point of this novel are the inside jokes about culture – the LOTR references, Star Wars, Cosplay. There are even some interesting points about how it is a Comic Con but most people seem to think that comics are no longer being published. A convention to celebrate something and that thing gets pushed to the margins. Mike Mason is a comic artist who makes his living by going to cons. He is currently unemployed by a publisher. At the most recent con, he finds himself a quasi-suspect in the murder of his sort of romantic rival who also was a harasser. Mason then sets out to solve the mystery and save the job of a friend, who as a woman artist is in danger of being replaced on the Batman like book. And along the way, you have rants about everything that is wrong in the comic industry. Which is fine. The mystery is workable, there are some funny jokes. But, but, But but. First the romantic lead is totally added on and feels so false. Second, we have the stereotypical noir of good girl= blonde, bad girl = dark hair, which pisses me off because I have dark hair. But the main problem for me, and one that isn’t at first obvious, is that despite being a partial critique/send up of comic cons, it still hues to some of the problems of fandom and its treatment of women. In this book, there are four women of note– the ex-wife Mason still has a thing for and who isn’t an angel; the Pedi-cab driver who is a nice, caring blonde, Mason’s biggest fan who has a pretty good cosplay, and Mason’s artist friend who helped get her start. The cosplayer is eventually revealed to have mental issues, so female fans are at risk of being crazy; the artist needs to have her job saved and only Mason can do it. See, she’s about to give birth, and her husband has some shit going out his job. Which, quite frankly, jerked me out of the book because the description of her husband’s adjunct life makes very little sense, and I say this as an adjunct. For one, most adjuncts teach in at least colleges/universities. But I digression. The ex-wife is revealed to be a baddie and gets murdered. So that leaves with the romantic interest of a Pedi-cab driver, who really isn’t into the whole con thing and just makes money. She is on the margins, and she is the only woman without problems or in need of saving. So, women don’t belong in fandom is being showcased whether that was Van Lente’s intention or not. And to be fair, I don’t think it was. He doesn’t describe women by their tits. Perhaps I am too sensitive to it because I feel like I am always on the fringes of fandom. I tend to prefer the books over the media. I tend to play more attention to plot. I have a decidedly feminist bent to how I look at sci-fi and fantasy. But still, especially with the treatment of the woman fan, this book just re-enforces the idea of women and fandom not mixing. Nice artwork, however.

  12. 3 out of 5

    Stephanie (That's What She Read)

    I love mysteries, and when I saw that this was going to be a murder mystery with a bit of nerdtastic fun, I was in. I enjoyed The Con Artist. We follow a comic book artist named Mike who has arrived at San Diego Comic Con. When Mike's known professional and romantic nemesis turns up dead, and Mike is struggling to find a solid alibi for the time of the murder, he makes his way through the chaos of the convention to solve the mystery itself. This was a lot of fun. My favorite characters were prob I love mysteries, and when I saw that this was going to be a murder mystery with a bit of nerdtastic fun, I was in. I enjoyed The Con Artist. We follow a comic book artist named Mike who has arrived at San Diego Comic Con. When Mike's known professional and romantic nemesis turns up dead, and Mike is struggling to find a solid alibi for the time of the murder, he makes his way through the chaos of the convention to solve the mystery itself. This was a lot of fun. My favorite characters were probably the cops, Sam and Twitch, their deadpan sarcastic dialogue had me chuckling a few times. I liked Mike as a character, he read like a Jason Bateman straight-man type. He was honest about the not so great things about comic culture, like the treatment of artists and the often toxic culture that exists in fandoms. He's a character that you can root for as a reader. The back cover said that there were supposed to be clues in the ten illustrations, but I didn't find anything. The pictures were sketches, so it was hard to see any details in the background. The story does a get a little overwhelming at times, but not in a messy way that loses the reader. This was a fun, quirky read that I would recommend to anyone who considers themselves a "nerd." *I received a copy of The Con Artist from Quirk Books in exchange for a review*

  13. 3 out of 5

    Max Baker

    Thank You Netgalley for providing me a free review copy in exchange for an honest review A book about fandom. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times, books about fandom are in right now. And The Con Artist joins a surprisingly short list of them that manage to really capture fandom in a smart, thoughtful, and overall inspiring way. Plus it's a murder mystery set at Comic Con. How awesome is that? Comic book artist Mike Mason is a con vagabond, going from convention to convention withou Thank You Netgalley for providing me a free review copy in exchange for an honest review A book about fandom. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times, books about fandom are in right now. And The Con Artist joins a surprisingly short list of them that manage to really capture fandom in a smart, thoughtful, and overall inspiring way. Plus it's a murder mystery set at Comic Con. How awesome is that? Comic book artist Mike Mason is a con vagabond, going from convention to convention without a stable home. Having just arrived in San Diego for Comic-Con, Mike is immediately swept up into the murder of a mid tier comics industry type that soon typhoons into a whirlwind of high ranking entertainment goons, counterfeiting, and murder. The Con Artist is a incredibly fun read. It takes place over the four days of comic con as Mike searches for a murderer amidst the geeky and unapologetic. It's an incredible love letter to a culture that Lente has a real respect for while also pointing out its flaws. This never felt like a malicious examination of the comics industry, but a critique on the positive and negative aspects of fan culture and the entertainment industry. The worlds within the convention center and the surrounding areas were crafted with a remarkable detail and care. Lente really created an atmosphere that felt so authentic to the cultural event San Diego Comic-Con has become. As a narrator I though Mike was pretty good. At times, I felt his character sorta vanished and because more of a pair of eyes to experience the story with, but then he'd crack a joke or have a really good character moment that suddenly turns him into a more of a character. But I don't know, a lot of his personality only really come out in relation to other characters. His inner monologue was mostly generic industry talk and issues in said industry discussed in almost a textbooky manner. Sure there was a piece of personal info thrown in here and there, but overall it felt like Lente was trying to create a character that was almost generic, an everyman so to speak. Which isn't bad, the joy of this book comes from the mystery aspect and the environment not the main character. But, Mike almost felt like a safe choice for this book. This book discusses a lot of issues, fame, owner intent, how much creators are paid, sexism. and so on, but they're almost all kept at a somewhat healthy distance due to the fact Mike doesn't experience them first hand. These are things he sees and hears about, not something that personally affects him. The biggest issue this book tackles is how much creators are paid and the fact they're often thrown away. But it's something that affects Mike's mentor, Ben K, and not him. Everything happens around him or to someone he knows, and not him personally, which I creates a disconnect between his character and the audience. However, the murder mystery aspect which is what sold me on this book was brilliant. Expertly paced, I was genuinely shocked by the twist ending. Sure, I figured out who was the red herring and who was the murder as the story progressed, but this book made me second guess myself, made me change my way of thinking. I was on the edge of my seat until the end, because this book was so eloquent and fun that I just had to know. This book makes you think one way and then another and I really appreciate the skill that goes into that sort of thing. Does it have it's problems? Sure, but The Con Artist is a great mystery with an even greater atmosphere and setting. It's something I definitely recommend trying out this Comic Con season.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Todd Glaeser

    I received this book for free from Goodreads First Reads. I used to live in San Diego and used to go to SDCC annually until movies and tv took over and getting tickets became a lottery system. I think it’s been 5 years (maybe 6) since I’ve been able to get tickets. Fred Van Lenth does a great job of capturing the essence and atmosphere of Comic-con. He’s been on both sides of the table, as well as in the Hall and the after parties. (I have to guess about the parties.) My only concern is that the co I received this book for free from Goodreads First Reads. I used to live in San Diego and used to go to SDCC annually until movies and tv took over and getting tickets became a lottery system. I think it’s been 5 years (maybe 6) since I’ve been able to get tickets. Fred Van Lenth does a great job of capturing the essence and atmosphere of Comic-con. He’s been on both sides of the table, as well as in the Hall and the after parties. (I have to guess about the parties.) My only concern is that the comic-con and nerd culture references fly so consistently and accurately, will some reader outside “the fandom” be able to make sense of it?

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Timpson

    Michael Miller is a comic book artist down on his luck who heads to the annual Geek heaven event that is San Diego comic con. He hopes to spend the time signing comics and drawing commissions but instead gets embroiled in murder, mayhem and Mister Mystery. I loved this. As a geeky convention-goer it really ticked all the boxes in terms of pop culture references and reality. Certain inside jokes (Con-time, the various stereotypes, cosplayers and celebrity) were lovingly laid and gently mocked. It Michael Miller is a comic book artist down on his luck who heads to the annual Geek heaven event that is San Diego comic con. He hopes to spend the time signing comics and drawing commissions but instead gets embroiled in murder, mayhem and Mister Mystery. I loved this. As a geeky convention-goer it really ticked all the boxes in terms of pop culture references and reality. Certain inside jokes (Con-time, the various stereotypes, cosplayers and celebrity) were lovingly laid and gently mocked. It was also brilliant to see the other side of the artists table. I love comics but have never been a stalwart collector so it was fascinating to hear of all of the careers that you didn't even realize existed. I'm so happy that there are more and more books coming out that focus on the geek side of popular culture; having drown in a sea of Summer Camp or Space/Jock/fat/cheer camp stories it is lovely to finally have something that we can identify with. Fred Van Lente is a great comic book artist himself and knows how to set the story with words as well as pictures. The sketch outlines were interesting in ebook form so I assume in print form they are even better.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kira

    *received an ARC for review* 4.5 stars* This book is written for fans. Fans of TV, comics, movies, all fans of all kinds. I LOVED all the references, the shout outs to all kinds of fandoms, the loving detail that went into coming up with future ideas that are completely plausible for the entertainment industry. I loved all of it. It's too bad the story wasn't as good. It's a typical 'who dunnit' murder mystery, and it got kind of convoluted near the last third, but it was still enjoyable. I would de *received an ARC for review* 4.5 stars* This book is written for fans. Fans of TV, comics, movies, all fans of all kinds. I LOVED all the references, the shout outs to all kinds of fandoms, the loving detail that went into coming up with future ideas that are completely plausible for the entertainment industry. I loved all of it. It's too bad the story wasn't as good. It's a typical 'who dunnit' murder mystery, and it got kind of convoluted near the last third, but it was still enjoyable. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who's a major fan of the entertainment industry in general. I loved all the artwork throughout the book as well. On a side note, I could totally see this being turned into an amazing one shot TV show or movie. It was so fun to recognize all the references thrown in (I'm a huge purveyor of all mediums of entertainment so this was completely up my alley). It would probably star Nathan Fillion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Adriana

    A solid mystery that stands out from many like it by being based entirely on the real-life Comic-Con that takes place in San Diego every year. This was a main selling point for me as I could easily identify the places, people, and events the author was referring to -even when names were changed to protect people and copyrights- but I do wonder if someone who is unfamiliar with it will get as much of a kick out of it. Extra kudos to Van Lente for getting a couple of really good messages about life A solid mystery that stands out from many like it by being based entirely on the real-life Comic-Con that takes place in San Diego every year. This was a main selling point for me as I could easily identify the places, people, and events the author was referring to -even when names were changed to protect people and copyrights- but I do wonder if someone who is unfamiliar with it will get as much of a kick out of it. Extra kudos to Van Lente for getting a couple of really good messages about life, the comics industry, and fandom in there. He doesn't hit you over the head with them, but they're in there and they do make you think.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Whitney

    *3.5 As someone who works at SYFY and worked at SDCC this year, this was a very enjoyable and detailed story based at this convention. I enjoyed the few references to SYFY as well. Very fun story!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shilpa

    The title of Fred Van Lente's book is brilliant, to say the least. It's a novel about a comic book artist, in particular Comic Con artist, who spends his days with no fixed address, going from one comic book convention to the next giving talks and signing books. The book has a hilarious tone to it, despite the anxiety that envelopes the whole situation. It's worthy of farce, punctuated with recurring comments, such as when Mike responds to questions about what he does for a living: "Comic books. The title of Fred Van Lente's book is brilliant, to say the least. It's a novel about a comic book artist, in particular Comic Con artist, who spends his days with no fixed address, going from one comic book convention to the next giving talks and signing books. The book has a hilarious tone to it, despite the anxiety that envelopes the whole situation. It's worthy of farce, punctuated with recurring comments, such as when Mike responds to questions about what he does for a living: "Comic books. Really? They still make those?" The book is a nod to Comic Book fandom. It's a fast read that makes a great carry-on when you're travelling by air, or the train, and perfect for a weekend vacation. Don't be surprised to get nods and questions from fellow travellers though. The cover of The Con Artist really catches the eye. An entertaining read 👍 ★★★★☆ sukasareads.com

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alissa

    This is a quirky, dumb, fun mystery. The writing isn't the most erudite, but it's the nerd equivalent of a mindless beach read. It probably won't work for you if you've ever been to a con, but otherwise there is a nice surprise twist ending that I enjoyed.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    While most people think of "summer reads" as books that takes place at the beach, this was the perfect "summer nerd-read" because it takes place at the San Diego Comic Con. The book was made even more enjoyable while I read it because I started it while the Con was taking place. I've never been (and truthfully will probably never be able to go), so it was a lot of fun reading a book that took place at "Nerd Central." I may never be there mysel, but at least I was able to enjoy it vicariously thr While most people think of "summer reads" as books that takes place at the beach, this was the perfect "summer nerd-read" because it takes place at the San Diego Comic Con. The book was made even more enjoyable while I read it because I started it while the Con was taking place. I've never been (and truthfully will probably never be able to go), so it was a lot of fun reading a book that took place at "Nerd Central." I may never be there mysel, but at least I was able to enjoy it vicariously through this novel. It was also a pretty solid mystery. I didn't guess the culprit, and I actually fell for the red herring that Fred Van Lente threw in the path. I'm not exactly Sherlock, but I have been able to guess some mysteries. (Not gonna lie, I totally called "Murder on the Orient Express! And I'm kinda proud of that.) So getting a twist that really surprised me was an added bonus. I really enjoyed all of the nerd references, making the book as much fun as it was a page-turner. The downsides, for me, were typos that happened enough that the Grammar Nerd in me noticed. (I mean, typos happen, I know, but they happened enough that I found myself thinking, "Oh, another typo," while reading it.) That's not so much an author thing as it is a publishing thing, so it doesn't really detract from my rating. Just... as someone who used to work as a writing assistant, it's hard for me not to point out. What did detract from my score, however, is that the author would sometimes get a little "preachy." Now, the moments when he talked about how great the fans could be and how the art of creating Something from Nothing was reward enough... those moments definitely out-shined the others. But there were times when I couldn't help but think, "Way to generalize all of us. Geez." One time in particular was when the main character was talking about how Muslim people like Ms. Marvel, African American people like Storm, people in wheelchairs like Oracle. And how white guys like everything because everything is made for white guys. I thought that was a little... too broad of a stroke. Sure, there are some things that we are going to identify with because we see them in ourselves. For instance, when I first got into comics, Tony Stark was my favorite character because he essentially had a heart condition, and I was born with a hole in my heart. But once I REALLY got into comics... well, he's not my favorite character anymore. In fact, I don't think he even cracks my Top 20. Using Van Lente's logic, my favorite characters should be quiet, white girls from rural communities with heart conditions. And my favorite characters are: (1) Superman (Okay, there's the rural, I'll give him that. But that's about where it stops.), (2) Batman (Um... nope, that doesn't fit the criteria.) (3) Captain Marvel (Shazam) (Also nope.), (4) Robin (Just in general; though, believe me, I could crank out a list of my favorite Robins on the spot... and none of them are the girls, so... still nope), (5) Spider-Man (also nope.) Add onto that the fact that I was recently recommended Ms. Marvel (which I haven't read yet... darn reading list never getting shorter...) by a white Catholic girl who respected Ms. Marvel's devotion to her religion. I'm not saying that we don't find something we connect with in the characters we love, but automatically assuming those connections come from society-given labels rather than something much deeper is... well underestimating what it means to be human. I think that's a bit of a cynical view of fans, and while it might be true to some, it's not true to, I honestly believe, the majority. Maybe I'm an optimist, a believer in hope and humanity... and honestly, if that's what I am, then I'm proud to be that way. Somebody, it seems, has to be. But... I digress. If it wasn't for such moments that I just fundamentally don't believe in, I probably would have rated this book higher. It was well-written, with some solid suspense and some great nerd culture. But I can't overlook the parts where the author's opinions and mine diverted. And honestly, I think that's awesome. That's what books are about: they're about sharing ideas and opening a dialogue. They're about thinking about what the author says and what you believe and analyzing both viewpoints. We have a terrible tendency in our culture to plug our ears and not listen to the other side, to assume that someone whose opinion differs from ours is somehow baser because of it. And that's simply not true. Books are about conversation: that's why people try to ban them. They are the conduit of ideas. And... these are simply the thoughts that came into my mind while reading this particular book. Agree with me? Disagree with me? Great! Let's talk about it and see if we can better understand each other--even if we can't agree with each other. Understanding without agreement, discussing without angering... those are the cornerstones of respect. And if we nerds can't learn to do that--when we were so often the subjects of ridicule or exclusion ourselves--then what hope do we have for everyone else? I stand strong beside the belief that there is hope and that we can do this. And... I've completely turned my review into a soapbox. Ah well... like I said, books = ideas. Oh, and before I forget... I also liked the ending, how it wrapped back around to the beginning like S.E. Hinton's "The Outsiders." Though I'm dying of curiosity... did the main character get off? I'm leaning towards yes. I'd love to hear what other people thought of the ending, and what happened after Van Lente decided to end the book. So, I suppose in conclusion, I would say I definitely recommend this book: either as a summer read or as something that could get to you think a little bit harder about the world in general. It surprisingly works on all counts.

  22. 4 out of 5

    John Driscoll

    My library received an Advance Reader Copy of this book, which is what I read and what my review is based on. It's made from an uncorrected proof, and according to the disclaimer, the illustrations are not the final artwork. That's a good thing, because what's in this version are extremely rough sketches. The Con Artist (because he's an artist and it takes place at a Con! Get it?!) is the story of a comics artist, a few years past the height of his fame, who travels to San Diego Comic-Con and end My library received an Advance Reader Copy of this book, which is what I read and what my review is based on. It's made from an uncorrected proof, and according to the disclaimer, the illustrations are not the final artwork. That's a good thing, because what's in this version are extremely rough sketches. The Con Artist (because he's an artist and it takes place at a Con! Get it?!) is the story of a comics artist, a few years past the height of his fame, who travels to San Diego Comic-Con and ends up becoming the prime suspect in a murder. So basically, it's a whodunit set in Nerd Mecca, with enough comic book and general geekdom references to rival Ernest Cline's Ready Player One. If that sounds like your cup of tea, this will not disappoint. Cleverly, the book is being published just in time for this year's SDCC - I can only assume Fred Van Lente will be there to sell and promote it (because how can you not?) Main character Mike Miller, as mentioned above, is a comics artist on his way to San Diego Comic Con. Though he has a table at the Artist's Alley where he will sell prints and draw commissions, his main reason for coming is to present a lifetime achievement award to his friend and mentor Ben K, whom he calls The Great One. Sadly, when he's picked up at the airport by a fan cosplaying his character Violent Violet, who says she's his personal assistant for the con, Mike learns that Ben K has just died. We quickly learn that Mike's life is circling the drain: his run on the famous Mister Mystery comic is a few years in the past, the movie based on his original creation Gut Check was successful but is also now in the past. His marriage is on the rocks, and Mike reveals to Violet that he basically lives at conventions now - traveling directly from one to the next, supporting himself by drawing commissions and getting extended hotel stays in lieu of appearance fees from the various cons - and hasn't been back to his actual home in years. The first night of the convention, Mike runs into his "archnemesis" and former editor Danny Lieber - also the man that his wife left him for. Mike takes a drunken swing at Danny in a bar, then catches a rickshaw ride away from the con to collect his thoughts. Unfortunately, Danny turns up dead later that night, leaving Mike as the prime suspect. Though Danny was a backstabbing corporate stooge and not well-loved in the comics industry, things still look pretty bad for Mike. Worse yet, the rickshaw driver (and therefore Mike's alibi) has disappeared. Before the con is over, Mike has to try and find time to draw his commissions, try to avoid his ex-wife who is also at the con, talk to current "it guy" in the industry Sebastian Mod about the collaboration Sebastian is offering to do, and try to clear his name and find the real killer. So, was it good? I think so. I figured out the killer about halfway in, but I was still caught off guard by some other twists and turns in the story. Van Lente has a TON of experience in the comics industry, and it shows. His in-depth knowledge of the creative process, the inner workings of the comics industry and the convention circuit all lend a real sense of authenticity to the story. The story is sprinkled with Easter eggs as well; my favorite is that the company most of the characters work for is called Atlas Entertainment (Atlas being the old name of Marvel Comics before the 1960's). Earlier on I made a comparison to Ready Player One, and that comparison is definitely apt in one particular way. If you enjoyed counting up the nerd property name drops so that you can say, ...then you'll find that same satisfaction here. After all, the book takes place during the world's largest comic convention, so it's pretty much inevitable. But thanks to Van Lente's insider perspective, not too many of these references feel gratuitous (though a few do). The fictional franchises are mixed in with the real ones so seamlessly that I was actually fooled a couple of times. For example, I was shocked to find out that Disco Mummy was a real character, and it turns out there is a story called Cell Block Z, though it's not the same as the one referenced in this book. Could it be better? Yes. As mentioned above, the artwork in the book consists of extremely rough sketches. It's not supposed to be the finished work, but they're all depictions of sketches Mike draws throughout the story, so the finished product may indeed still end up looking like these rough sketches. They don't show you anything the text hasn't already told you, and the rough sketches aren't much to look at, so they don't really serve much of a purpose to my way of thinking. The geek references are also laid on a little thick, to the point where I could see them being a bit overwhelming to someone who doesn't follow comics or other geek culture. Unlike Ready Player One, knowledge of these things isn't treated as a virtue, but I could see an unfamiliar reader being a little swamped by the sheer number and omnipresence of them. Overall, it's a good solid mystery with a believable and satisfying ending, and worth a read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    LibraryOfTheNight

    I was sent this book for in exchange for a honest review. I just wanted to say a big thank you to the team at Quirk books for this opportunity. I will say I really enjoyed this book! I loved the nerdyness of it. And really appreciated the story. I will say i did guess the murderer. But there was tons of twists! If your into mysterys, or comic con or just want to nerd out i highly suggest you pick up this book. THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. Im only writing about the first 80 pages or so becaus I was sent this book for in exchange for a honest review. I just wanted to say a big thank you to the team at Quirk books for this opportunity. I will say I really enjoyed this book! I loved the nerdyness of it. And really appreciated the story. I will say i did guess the murderer. But there was tons of twists! If your into mysterys, or comic con or just want to nerd out i highly suggest you pick up this book. THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. Im only writing about the first 80 pages or so because i want to encourge you to read this book! The beginning of this story we meet out main character Mike. Hes a comic pencilist. Due to a awful divorce he lives his life traveling from convention to convention. Hes headed to the biggest comic con, in sunny San Diego. He is supposed to give the award to his mentor Ben K. When Mike arrives at the airport he meets Violent Violet ( a fan cosplaying as one of his beloved comic turned movie characters.) She tells him the con sent her and she is to be his handler. Running for food, doing his errands etc. Mike stores his supplies in various storage units across the country, so it will be easier than having to constantly travel with it all. And so he sends Violent Violet on her first todo list. Mike hears from the fan fanatic that Ben K has passed away, and Mike is hit pretty hard. Mike grew up idolizing Ben K and his work on Mister Mystery. He was lucky enough to work under Ben K along with another guy named Dirtbag. Turns out Ben K was being screwed over by Atlas (big comic company) and not be paying royalties and etc, making him bitter. After the heart braking news and akward drive to Mikes hotel, he finally arrives. Turns out back in the day he made a ally in the guy whos been running the guest services by drawing him a awesome sailor moon. ( Dude is obsessed with sailor moon, and so am i! I loved this reference.) But since Mike did this he became a always approved guest. Meaning no matter what he would always have a room, badge and table at comic con. At comic cons they have a area called artist alley. This is where you can meet artists, ask for comissions and check out their merch. San Diego comic con uses the grandfathered in program, so as long as you show up, you have a table. Fail to do so you have to go through all the hoops to get a table again. Mike starts setting up his table and we meet Katie. Katie is the current artist for Mister Mystery, and a fellow friend. Mike is definetly jealous that Katie has a huge line already, meanwhile Mike has one. Mike is able to travel to cons all over because instead of being paid a apperance fee, he gets his hotel stay. Now for him to make some money, he does comissions. This time he is requested to do: Deadpool, Tomb of Dracula, Captain America, Mister Mystery, Batman, Baby Groot, Power Girl, a D&D character, and of course another Deadpool. Hes got three days to crank these out. After day one of the con we find out, that people at comic cons like to get their drink on. And thats what Mike did. We find our main character back at the bar when he sees someone whom he really hates. Danny Lieber. He worked at Atlas, and was a editor. When Mike was working on Mister Mystery, Danny loved to slash his rates, and take away Mikes pages. To say this guy was a dick is a understatement. Now besides all of that, Mike actually caught Danny with his wife. ( bad devorice.) When that went down, thats when he decided to live like a gypsy, going con to con. Mike is pretty drunk and goes to confront Danny. We find out that Christine ( mikes ex) is having a kareoke party. And Danny also tells Mike that they are no longer together. As Danny continues to rage Mike on he crosses the line bringing up Ben K. Mike punches him and leaves. He gets in a pedi cab driven by a cosplayer dressed up as Tomb Raider. Shes a polish lady and tells her to take him to her favorite place. They go to the kiss statue of WII. They spend some time talking about her life, and he sketches her. Next morning Mike wakes up to a banging on his door, turns out its the cops. They want to question him about his wereabouts last night after his fight with Danny. Danny was found dead on the steps of the convention center. Mike gives them his alibi, which they poke holes in. Back to the comic con, Mike is at his table when Violet comes and brings him stuff from his storage unit. It goes into explaining the sterotypes of people who ask for comissions or who go to the table. A man walks up telling Mike he will pay him $500 to do a piece on Disco Mummy. Which he accepts. Everyone is talking about Danny's death and people are already assuming Mike did it. Again im cutting off here because you need to pick up this book and find out what happens!

  24. 3 out of 5

    Amna Ikhlaq

    I won a chance to read & review a Digital ARC of this book on Instagram in a giveaway hosted by the publisher! For a few days every summer, the city of San Diego is converted into a dreamscape for fans of all genres as it hosts perhaps the greatest convention in geek history: Comic Con. As an outsider, who has never been to any conventions and does in fact live halfway across the globe from this particular event, the glamour of a few days where nothing matters but the stories that help you pr I won a chance to read & review a Digital ARC of this book on Instagram in a giveaway hosted by the publisher! For a few days every summer, the city of San Diego is converted into a dreamscape for fans of all genres as it hosts perhaps the greatest convention in geek history: Comic Con. As an outsider, who has never been to any conventions and does in fact live halfway across the globe from this particular event, the glamour of a few days where nothing matters but the stories that help you progress from day to day in real life and a chance to bond with strangers and friends alike is something incredible and fascinating. Indeed, I always get excited and sad watching all the images and news coming out of SDCC but make up for it by watching Hall H panels and crying into my snacks (as one does). The Con Artist by Fred Van Lente follows a comic artist Mike Miller, as he navigates the tangled mess that is Comic Con weekend interlaced with unexpected twists from his personal life. He arrives to find first his mentor and then rival dead, and becomes a prime suspect in the murder of the latter. In the meanwhile he's being chased by burly, tattooed men, reconnecting with an old friend and dealing with a super dedicated volunteer guide. The premise of a murder mystery set up at Comic Con is a great concept. However, the plot is only a loose part of the story. What really makes the book interesting is all the different issues being discussed surrounding Comic Con and even our lives in general in an era where the Entertainment industry rules supreme. Mike Miller's point of view helps explore not only the things that all fans are able to see on the surface (strangers coming together, the gap between idol and real life persons getting bridged) but also the underbelly of what it takes to run a powerhouse merging all kinds of fictional worlds for a weekend (the politics and corporate decisions aimed at ensnaring the public). I may not be very familiar with the author's other works and credentials, but he exhibits an obvious understanding of the way Comic Con works. The story is peppered with indications of how the entertainment business has overshadowed the original purpose of comic con (i.e. a celebration of comics and original artwork), the struggles of comics artists who do not receive the same accolades as the faces that portray their characters on screen and an odd but surprisingly sensible amount of zombie obstacle courses, white supremacists and overall comic con weirdness. The writing at times has its flaws but is in general a good read interspersed with references for all kinds of fans. The final book format I believe will feature illustrations but in the digital copy these were only presented as sketches, so I'd be excited to see the final outcome. The book has been released in time for SDCC weekend so if, like me, you are unable to make it this year, perhaps reading this quirky but relevant story will help ease the blues. Rating: 3/5 stars

  25. 5 out of 5

    Doreen

    So I thought that reading this on my Fire would be superior to reading on my Paperwhite but the sketches weren't formatted very well for Kindle so meh. I did really like the idea, tho, that you could find clues in the sketches to help you solve the mystery (why yes I was a Cam Jansen fan as a kid!) It probably works better in execution in physical format, as the Kindle versions tended to break the line drawings in half, which doesn't make for good clue hunting. I also kinda expected the interior So I thought that reading this on my Fire would be superior to reading on my Paperwhite but the sketches weren't formatted very well for Kindle so meh. I did really like the idea, tho, that you could find clues in the sketches to help you solve the mystery (why yes I was a Cam Jansen fan as a kid!) It probably works better in execution in physical format, as the Kindle versions tended to break the line drawings in half, which doesn't make for good clue hunting. I also kinda expected the interior sketches to be closer to the art style on the cover. Each is fun to look at in its own right, but it felt a bit like false advertising given how different they are. As to the story itself, I really enjoyed the insight into the con-going experience from the talents' point of view. I'm a con-goer from way back, having enjoyed both comics and gaming cons before they were taken over by Hollywood celebrities, but strictly as a consumer/card flopper/dice chucker. Oh, there was the one con I helped run an RPG room, but usually I'm just there to play games and buy stuff. Tho I did hang out with Chris Claremont a lot at that one Baltimore Comic Con. Er, back on topic: I also really enjoyed our hero's opinions on the meaning of creating as well as the relationship between creators and fans, particularly in niche entertainment. The Con Artist is a lot of fun for people familiar with geekdom, and super informative for those who want to learn more about San Diego Comic Con and the comics industry. What TCA isn't great at is telling a good mystery story. There's the bare bones of one there, and there are a bunch of great set pieces, but the writing is wildly disjointed, with the emotions often feeling uninhabited (with the great exception being Mike's interactions with Violet, but not necessarily her actions otherwise.) I didn't feel a single emotional connection with anything that happened besides aforementioned exception. Perhaps this had to do with our protagonist feeling a little disconnected from life himself, a little numb from what's clearly his depressed state of mind, and while that lends itself to veritas, it doesn't really lend itself to entertainment. Still, an interesting experiment of a novel that I would like to see more tried of in future. Oh! When Fred Van Lente talked about the perilous financial security of comics artists and writers, who earn at the mercy of their publishers, it reminded me very much of one of my favorite writers from the 90s and his current plight. William Messner-Loebs did a run on Wonder Woman that I still think of fondly, but has been reduced to living out of his car with his ailing wife. If you can spare a few dollars to help make up for a system that lacks any sort of social net for people who've done their best to entertain us, please go to his GoFundMe page and donate.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Osvaldo

    Let's say two and a half stars. I have read quite a few of Fred Van Lante's comics, being a particular fan of his Action Philosophers! and Comic Book History of Comics series with Ryan Dunlevey. As such I wanted to give his prose fiction a try. It was okay. It definitely wasn't bad. I might even recommend this book to a fan of crime/mystery novels interested in Comic Con and fan/comic book culture, but it was also kind of uneven and I was unsure of who it was written for - what audience, I should Let's say two and a half stars. I have read quite a few of Fred Van Lante's comics, being a particular fan of his Action Philosophers! and Comic Book History of Comics series with Ryan Dunlevey. As such I wanted to give his prose fiction a try. It was okay. It definitely wasn't bad. I might even recommend this book to a fan of crime/mystery novels interested in Comic Con and fan/comic book culture, but it was also kind of uneven and I was unsure of who it was written for - what audience, I should say. Ultimately, this book could have been better. A little sharper in its critique of both fandom and the entertainment industry, a little more innovative in its incorporation of sketches and comic panels (one of the best parts is when the protagonist, a comic book artist, breaks down for us what the precipitating murder would have been like through speculating how it'd be laid out as a comics page - there should have been more of that), and made better use of the toxic elements of fandom and the tensions of representational politics when tied with the kind of shallow reading of superhero comics that leads to stuff like Nazis-wannabes unironically being nostalgic for straight white comics heroes without actually absorbing any of the messages about inclusion and tolerance and diversity those comics were ostensibly purporting to support. There were definitely some laugh out loud moments, but also an uneven approach to incorporating a mix of actual and fictional properties and franchises that makes it hard to determine how a reader not already familiar with all this stuff would engage with it, while risking seeming too obvious to one who is familiar with it. The pacing is mostly well-done, though (something I think writing comic probably helped with), so by the time I got two-thirds through I really had a hard time putting it down. Still, when I was done, I felt kind of meh about it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    CrazyAsACupcake

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars THE CON ARTIST is about a comic book artist who is suspected for the murder of the man who stole his wife from him, leading us on a journey to try and uncover the truth of what actually happened on the night of the murder. I really enjoyed this book, as I am an avid con goer myself so I could relate to a lot of things that Mike M (the MC) described in the book (I actually bought this book at LFCC :D), and I am also a huge fan of murder mysteries - I love trying to solve things ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars THE CON ARTIST is about a comic book artist who is suspected for the murder of the man who stole his wife from him, leading us on a journey to try and uncover the truth of what actually happened on the night of the murder. I really enjoyed this book, as I am an avid con goer myself so I could relate to a lot of things that Mike M (the MC) described in the book (I actually bought this book at LFCC :D), and I am also a huge fan of murder mysteries - I love trying to solve things and this book was a challenge for me to figure out! The characters were fleshed out, and not one sided so I feel like I could really know them and relate to them and even feel sad for them (view spoiler)[ when Christine was killed I was crying for Mike - I completely didn't see that coming so props to Fred Van Lente for making me think Mike was going to have a happy ending (hide spoiler)] . Another thing I was happy for was the character of Violent Violet, as I'm pretty sure this is the first book I've read in a while that has a disabled character, and I think that there definitely needs to be more representation for people with disabilities, whether it's like Violet's and they're missing a limb, or something like autism and ADHD (one of my old friends had ADHD and it would annoy them that they could never find book characters like them apart from Percy Jackson (thank you, Uncle Rick!)). Characters need to be more diverse, be it in sexuality, religion, skin colour, and there needs to be more disabled characters because everyone deserves to have people that they can relate to in media and novels - and that doesn't mean just throwing in the token gay/black character in for minority points (this review is coming...). The murder was continuously looked back upon, with the evidence mounting on top so to help Mike and the readers try and line up what happened. The use of the comic strips were helpful in being able to visualise the scene (especially what the anime character was meant to look like - the drawing of the anime cosplayers was extremely helpful). I only had 2 peeves with this book; the first problem was how certain things to begin with felt rather unrealistic... Such as how there was a preacher outside the con saying about how God hates con goers. I'm not American and I've never been to an American convention, so reading about the preacher that was outside just seemed off to me. (If anyone can tell me if this actually happens that'd be great :)) The second one is that the middle of the book before the climax seemed to drag a bit - mainly in the part where it would just be a long description of what Mike was doing at the con until he left to continue working on the murder investigation. All in all, though, I really enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to reading more books by Fred Van Lente! THE CON ARTIST gets an overall rating of 4/5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  28. 4 out of 5

    Vicki (The Wolf's Den)

    I didn't know anything about this book before I saw it shared by it's publisher, Quirk, on their Facebook feed, but I picked it up at exactly the right time. Coming just off the heels of this year's Comic Con (no, I didn't attend - I'm not that nuts! Or wealthy) it was easy to smirk at the plethora of references to current 'announcements', events, and typical Con behavior. I loved the narrator, Mike, for his snark and humor, but also for his more human moments. I think any artist or fan (of comi I didn't know anything about this book before I saw it shared by it's publisher, Quirk, on their Facebook feed, but I picked it up at exactly the right time. Coming just off the heels of this year's Comic Con (no, I didn't attend - I'm not that nuts! Or wealthy) it was easy to smirk at the plethora of references to current 'announcements', events, and typical Con behavior. I loved the narrator, Mike, for his snark and humor, but also for his more human moments. I think any artist or fan (of comics or other media) will be able to find something to relate to in Mike or his entourage. I will say, since he didn't refer to himself by name very often, it's only by chance that I can remember his name now, but that's not for lack of character. The story felt like something I'd easily see on TV, like on Castle or Bones or something. It's very current, lighthearted when needed, but somber too. I don't know if the many references will date it too badly, since most of them were to huge franchises like Marvel, DC, etc. And there was a LOT of made-up stuff that sounded just plausible enough to be real - Prison Inmates vs Zombies - so it might hold up for years to come. And I hope it does. The mystery was great. Like I said, very reminiscent of my favorite crime/comedies, in that the narrator doesn't reveal anything until they're good and ready. There's no moment of, "It was then I realized that the murderer had to be _____!" But I guess that's just good storytelling these days. I won't say I'm disappointed in the ending, but it does feel like I could have done with one more scene. I want to know how everything ended - was it happy, bittersweet, or full-on tragic? But, then again, I guess the Con's over and that's part of another story. (I was very distracted by the occasional insertions of a character named Ian Smallwood. I have never before seen my surname in a story, so him popping up from time to time gave me a bit of a jolt.)

  29. 3 out of 5

    Tony Zale

    This quick-reading mystery follows Mike Mason, a comic book artist down on his luck, coasting on past successes. He lives on the comic book convention circuit in comped hotel rooms, travelling between cities on free flights, with no homelife to speak of. The monstrous San Diego Comic-Con attracts much of the industry and puts Mason in contact with some old friends... but mostly rival artists, malicious editors, shady dealers, and his ex-wife (also in the business). When one of these belligerents This quick-reading mystery follows Mike Mason, a comic book artist down on his luck, coasting on past successes. He lives on the comic book convention circuit in comped hotel rooms, travelling between cities on free flights, with no homelife to speak of. The monstrous San Diego Comic-Con attracts much of the industry and puts Mason in contact with some old friends... but mostly rival artists, malicious editors, shady dealers, and his ex-wife (also in the business). When one of these belligerents ends up dead, Mason becomes a prime suspect. For reasons that don’t entirely make sense, Mason decides that the only hope for exoneration is doing his own sleuthing. His investigations criss-cross the convention and provide ample opportunities for digressions describing the comic scene. Superfans get classified into groups like “Narrators” (running a continuous monologue about the attractions, regardless of who’s listening) or “Fetishists” (patrons of artists willing to draw them risque versions of popular characters for big money). He shares thoughts on cosplayers and movie adaptations of books. He delivers a convention speech rallying attendees to demand better pay and benefits from publishing houses for creators. Author Van Lente is a creator himself and while these passages don’t deliver unexpected insights, they do feel authentic and give the book its personality. Further adding to the theme, a handful of significant scenes receive full page pencil sketches; I would have been happy to see a few more of these. Mason has high stakes encounters with a publishing magnate and a thuggish security agency staffed by Neo Nazis, and the end of the story contains a few twists. That said, the content is not so compelling that I could recommend The Con Artist to those without an interest in comics and comic book culture.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Punkie

    2.5 stars *I received this book as part of a giveaway on goodreads in exchange for an honest review.* I wanted to like The Con Artist so much, as a huge comic nerd myself I figured it was inevitable that this book and I were meant to be, but somehow we didn't connect. I must admit in all honesty that I am not particularly a fan of murder/mysteries outside of Sherlock Holmes. I have what some would call an annoying tendency to be able to identify the villain extremely quickly, usually within the fi 2.5 stars *I received this book as part of a giveaway on goodreads in exchange for an honest review.* I wanted to like The Con Artist so much, as a huge comic nerd myself I figured it was inevitable that this book and I were meant to be, but somehow we didn't connect. I must admit in all honesty that I am not particularly a fan of murder/mysteries outside of Sherlock Holmes. I have what some would call an annoying tendency to be able to identify the villain extremely quickly, usually within the first few chapters. Therefore, when I do read mysteries I try to stick to those that are comedic, or off the wall to keep me interested. I think that is where The Con Artist and I parted ways. The mystery was solved far too quickly, and the rest of the story didn't fully keep my attention. I do appreciate dry humor, but considering the much too ripe for parody setting of Comic-Con, I found it too understated. The book has its moments, but they proved too few and far between for me. That being said, I would recommend this book to others, it's not as though it was badly executed, more a case of the book and I not quite hitting it off. I think others will enjoy the down on his luck narrator, and the writing style, while understated, is by no means slowly paced. Honestly, I feel bad not enjoying it more, but it just wasn't a perfect fit, this book and I. I would definitely recommend it to those looking for a light mystery with a slightly different approach.

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