The McAfee twins—a pair of crime-fighting redheads whose stomping grounds are normally Los Angeles—are back in Jennifer Colt’s The Con Artist of Catalina Island: A McAfee Twins Christmas Novel. Kerry and Terry McAfee have agreed to a holiday trip to Catalina Island with their wealthy aunt Reba and Reba’s drunken, klutzy son, Robert. The trip is supposed to be relaxing, a way for Robert to recover after being struck by lightning while sitting on the toilet. However, nothing is simple where the McAfee twins are concerned, and mishaps begin before they even arrive on the island.
Robert, who has just found out the man he thought was his father really wasn’t, puts up a huge billboard in France to find his real dad—a move that nearly kills Aunt Reba. As for the twins, they are thrown into a mystery soon after arriving mainland when their cab driver (and object of Terry’s lust) is found dead. This leads the twins to begin investigating not only her death, but also the disappearance of a newlywed bride who, according to her not-so-upstanding husband, left because he went golfing on their honeymoon. Add in a crazed ex-wife, an attractive artist who develops a crush on Kerry, and a French poodle with a nose for pastry and a penchant for finding trouble, and you’ve got the kind of wild and crazy ride that readers of Jennifer Colt have come to expect from her novels.
The Con Artist of Catalina Island is not only a good mystery, it’s also a hilarious screwball comedy. Terry and Kerry are not exactly bumbling detectives, but they do tend to get themselves into some pretty funny situations. The play between the two sisters—one an ex-con lesbian with a tough streak and the other a mild-mannered romantic with a finely honed sense of justice—makes any adventure they go on interesting, but it does help that the mystery plots are well-written. Jennifer Colt also does a good job of expanding on the girls’ relationships, not only with each other but with other recurring characters in the series, and continuing to develop them as the series goes along.
Con Artist is not without its faults, of course. To begin with, the title is a bit of a misnomer as the story isn’t really about a con artist. In addition, the end, where everything is revealed, is a bit too complicated and some loose ends are left hanging. Finally, though this is touted as a Christmas novel, there isn’t that much to do with the season, something that might matter to a reader who picks up the book hoping it will get them into the Christmas spirit. However, on the whole, Con Artist of Catalina Island is a delightful read that will make readers laugh and keep them turning pages to see how Terry and Kerry will get out of their latest scrape. Recommended for those who have already stumbled upon Colt’s fantastic series and for new fans who will undoubtedly finish this book only to run to the nearest bookstore to find the rest of the adventures of the McAfee twins.