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Matchstick Men: A Novel About Grifters With Issues (2003)

Matchstick Men: A Novel About Grifters with Issues (2003)
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Rating
3.62 of 5 Votes: 2
ISBN
0812968212 (ISBN13: 9780812968217)
languge
English
publisher
random house
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Matchstick Men: A Novel About Grifter...
Matchstick Men: A Novel About Grifters With Issues (2003)

About book: My first foray into Garcia’s literary landscape was Repo Men. So after perusing the fictional escapades of a Bio-repo man, I wondered what other bizarre character combinations Garcia had up his sleeve. How about an OCD con man? That sounds like it might work nicely. And it does.Matchstick Men (yes, there is a film adaptation for this novel, too) focuses on two con men (also known as matchstick men), Roy and Frankie, who have been lifelong pals. Life is just fine, even comfortable, although Roy suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Still, as long as he keeps things in check and takes his meds, he can tackle any job, from simple scams to bigger game, which Frankie tries to rope him into throughout the course of the novel.Then Garcia heaves the proverbial curveball. Or sucker punch, is more like it. Through sessions with his psychiatrist, Roy learns he has a teenage daughter, Angela, from a now-defunct marriage. Roy isn’t sure how his worlds will mesh – his proper public face and his con man ways - but he knows Angela can’t discover the latter. That becomes the primary tension-builder for the bulk of the story – will Angela find out her dad is a con man, not an honest antiques dealer as he claims? It seems like a simple premise but it works, especially when the truth leaks out. Though it’s not the only truth Roy realizes, both about himself and about some people he thought he could trust. I can’t say any more lest it spoil the ending. But trust me – it’s quite a shocker. Essentially, the novel is one cleverly plotted con (and I mean that in a very complimentary way)The cast here is sparse but it allows for these few characters to develop. There are no stock figures either, which is definitely a big plus for me. Roy might be a criminal but he’s not violent or crude. He’s easy to feel sorry for and it’s hard not to feel his confusion when he tries his best to reconnect with Angela. Garcia seems to have a knack for making his characters flawed yet sympathetic without turning them pathetic. This rang true for Repo Men and it still holds together just as strongly in Matchstick Men.Likewise, there are thematic similarities in both books. No, there are no issues about the ethical nature of organ repossession but there is the underlying current of moral conflict. Roy is morally-flawed (you essentially have to be to be a con man) but he strives to at least want to do the right thing when he can. This really shines once Angela appears and Roy struggles with being the best influence he can and to make up for lost time. His battle with the devil on his shoulder emerges in his relationship with Frankie, too. Frankie likes to fish for big game and take chances, but Roy feels the risk isn’t worth it. The fact he questions some of the cons they set up shows he has a moral center; it just doesn’t speak up as loudly as it should most of the time. Once more, I loved this aspect about Garcia’s writing. His characters are not angels, which makes them relatable in terms of the moral issues they struggle with. Roy might be a con man but he has a heart, which means he’s not entirely lost. Garcia’s characters dance around a desire for redemption, and while it never comes packaged as a heavenly light-infused epiphany, it works for the world and characters he creates. Matchstick Men is no exception. Roy finds a sense of redemption in the end as (view spoiler)[a sacrificial act he commits (hide spoiler)]

"Matchstick Men" by Eric Garcia is about "grifters with issues", and a different ending from the Nicholas Cage film changes the whole meaning. Brilliant con-man Roy, putting on weight, adding compulsive rituals, constantly bile-nauseated, is berated by his long-time partner Frankie, always in debt, wanting more scams. New psychiatrist Dr Klein, tracks down Roy's unknown daughter Angela, now 14. She wants to learn the business. Klein doesn't write prescriptions for pill bottles handed out freely. What should be Roy's last job goes drastically wrong. (view spoiler)[The pills are sugar. Frankie brought in Klein and a girl well over 14 to convince Roy to give up his Cayman account and password. The book ends with Roy giving his last money away to kids trying on one of his old card tricks, leaving none for his cafe meal. He has changed, but we are not sure how. The film had Roy happy and respectable, working and involved romantically with a local cashier, forgiving the chance-met Angela (with the squandering same-old Frankie), considering the money well spent on buying himself a satisfying future. He is a new and better man. (hide spoiler)]
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Reviews
Mike
At times predictable but obviosly written with compassion and love. Roy suffers from OCD and his obsessions are interfering with his life as a grifter (conman, bull-runner, etc.) Many plot twists later and you have a satisfying ending and a smidge of moral compass toward the end.This is not perfect, some of the plot twists are easily figured out, even early on, however Garcia is an engaging writer with wit and a tremendous ability to create atmosphere and build a setting in the mind. I enjoyed this book and have just gotten his next novel. Highly recommended, the flaws are easily ignored in place of interesting and fleshed out characters and a half-novel/half-mystery.
Aimee
It's a cool story. Two men engaged in embezzlement, living a good life, as they thought, pulling tricks whenever they want and managing to escape without getting caught. Then suddenly the older men found out that he had a daughter, finally decided it's time to go slow and be settled. Took in her daughter and pull in a final stint with his partner, a newbie and his own daughter but luck wasn't on their side this time and their supposed to be one final team-up got screwed up and the newbie turned out to be a police undercover, all 3 of them got away from the cops and he got badly injured, and with his desperation to save his daughter, he gave access to his partner for all his hidden millions, and to his great dismay he lost contact of his partner and his daughter. As he tried to figure out what happened, he discovered that the so-called daughter wasn't really his, and to make things worse, he was fooled by his own partner.
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