Confident Women: Swindlers, Grifters, and Shapeshifters of the Female Persuasion

Harper. Feb. 2021. 352p. ISBN 9780063065130. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9780062956033. $16.99. CRIME
Keep your hand firmly on your wallet as Telfer (Lady Killers) takes you from the court of Marie Antoinette to Harlem’s occult scene to the aftermath of 9/11. She shines a spotlight on infamous grifters, adventuresses, imposters, and femmes fatales—each exhibiting brazen confidence and the uncanny ability to sell an outlandish story. Her rogues gallery is divided into four con artist categories—the Glitterati, the Seers, the Fabulists, and the Drifters—with memorable examples highlighting each section. Telfer can coherently summarize an intentionally convoluted scheme, such as a real estate swindle targeting China’s elite, while acknowledging the human cost. She also embraces the morbid humor of situations such as Roxie Ann Rice performing a trick play on the NFL with information gleaned from an issue of Ebony. Then there’s the outright tragic, including those who profit from disasters or the ill-fated Bonny Lee Bakley, who desperately wanted to marry a Hollywood star.
VERDICT Readers who appreciate a well-executed sting will enjoy this thoroughly researched yet breezy guide to notorious women.
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