Review: Fall Girl by Toni Jordan

I’m a big fan of heist shows.  The Sting, Catch Me If You Can, the sanctioned heists of Mission Impossible, the doing-it-for-the-little-guy heists of Leverage, the for-the-hell-of-it larceny of Hustle. Even the cons in the gods-battling-to-rule-the-world story of American Gods. I don’t imagine I’d be as enamoured of a real life attempt on my worldly goods, though I flatter myself that I’m both too honest and too smart to fall for one, but I’m all for a fictionalised con artistry.

Toni Jordan’s Fall Girl is a delightful contribution to the genre. Dr Ella Canfield is an evolutionary biologist trying to get funding for research to prove that the Tasmanian Tiger still exists – and what’s more, is living in the Mornington Peninsula. Only of course, there is no such person as Dr Ella Canfield. Della, one of a long line of elegant con artists, is just trying to relieve millionaire Daniel Metcalf of some of the funds in the Metcalf Trust. She doesn’t expect he’ll miss it, really.

It turns out, however, that there are a lot of things she doesn’t expect, but they happen anyway. Like Daniel deciding he needs to see the scientist Dr Ella in action over a weekend before he hands over the cash. Cue a crash course in outdoorsy living and scientific method. But there’s definitely some odd things going on, both at home and out bush, and Della will have her hands full trying to sort it all out before the end.

It’s hard to comment without risking massive spoilerage, but it may be sufficient to say that Della and her family of con artists find that life is a lot harder to manipulate when you’re not always sure who is lying to whom.

There’s a delicious screwball humour about the whole story of Daniel, Della and Della’s misfit family. There’s also a warm sense of bygone eras about it – that whiff of the gentleman thief, like Raffles, the roguishly charming villainy of some Cary Grant films. Della’s family, living in their ramshackle old home filled with secret doorways and hidden rooms, belongs to a more chivalrous time than the one they live in.

It’s refreshing, too, to see a heist story from the point of view of a female protagonist, Della is sharp, funny, thoughtful and clever. Joining her on the journey to discover the layers of truths behind this simple job gone complicated, and her own family.

All these layers of lies and that sense of old fashioned chivalrous thievery are central to the plot and its resolution. This makes it more than a screwball romance or a heist story – it’s also a story about people and change and belonging. But mainly it’s huge fun and very engaging !

Fall Girl by Toni Jordan is published by Text Publishing.

GaryView: Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC TV series)

Gary: So. That’s… good television, is it?

Lissa: Many consider it so.

Gary: But it’s just all weird dresses and weirder hats, and everyone finding fancy ways of being obnoxious or stupid.

Lissa: Truly, is that all you garnered from it?

Gary: Why are you talking funny?

Lissa: There is nothing peculiar in my… oh god. Bugger. Sorry. I reread the book after I loaned you the DVD. The language kind of soaks into your skull after a bit. It’s an easy rhythm to fall into. Did you really hate it that much?

Gary: I didn’t hate it. It was boring, that’s all. All those people pretending to be civil when they were just being mean. I had enough of that crap when I was alive, at school and … places. Even afterwards. There was this lecturer I had at uni, and he always managed to be so civil while being such a bastard I didn’t usually work out what was going on until after everyone else was laughing at me.

Lissa: That’s awful.

Gary: This was after… you know… and I’d gone back and was trying to keep up, and couldn’t. So. You know. Shows about people being clever and mean aren’t my thing.

Lissa: Oh. But… what about the romance?

Gary: What about it?

Lissa: Never mind.

Gary: Why do you like it so much?

Lissa: The language is beautiful. And it’s not all about people using language cleverly just to be mean. It’s also about how people can learn to change. And they can use language to be kind too. Elizabeth doesn’t use it to be mean, though she is a bit snarky. But I like her snark.

Gary: Yeah. Her… snark… is cool. Reminds me of you a bit.

Lissa: The snark.

Gary: Yeah. Oh, and the being smart and determined and stuff.

Lissa: But the snark too.

Gary: … Did I say something wrong?

Lissa: No. I did say I admired Liz’s snark, so it’s a fair call. Fine then. Well, going back to the vampire-themed stuff we usually watch, then – which of the characters do you think would have made a good vampire?

Gary: Wickham. Without a doubt. Self centred prick.

Lissa: Not Darcy?

Gary: [derisive] God, no. He’d never survive the change. He’s strong willed but basically he’s kind and generous and all that stuff. He’s not mean enough to change.

Lissa: Neither are you.

Gary: I’m no Darcy either.


Gary: Oh, and Mrs Bennett. She’d definitely make it.

Lissa: You know, I hadn’t thought of that, but I bet you’re right. Lady de Bourgh too. She’s a harridan.

Gary: And then that idiot Collins would let her eat him.

Lissa: You may not have liked it, but you were paying attention.

*For newcomers, the GaryView is a review of books/films/TV/entertainment carried out as a conversation between Lissa Wilson (librarian) and Gary Hooper (vampire) , characters from my book ‘The Opposite of Life’.

Words are like oxygen