A Deal with the Devil: The Dark and Twisted True Story of One of the Biggest Cons in History

Ellis, Blake & . Atria. Aug. 2018. 304p. notes. ISBN 9781501163845. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501163869. CRIME
In 2015, two CNN journalists picked up a piece of junk mail that would obsess them for the next three years. For more than 30 years, a psychic named Marie Duvall sent personalized letters to millions of vulnerable people worldwide, many elderly and friendless or those worried about their financial future. The recipients were convinced to send checks to the psychic, purchasing cheap "luck charms" and being promised a financial windfall in the future. After hearing some victims' tales, the reporters were determined to track down the psychic behind the scam. Wading through layers of shell companies and accomplices, with the help of law enforcement officials whose efforts to stop the scam were stymied by international boundaries, they stumbled toward the woman behind the multimillion-dollar business—but was she really the mastermind? Mail fraud is a frustrating tangle, but the authors do their best to lay it out for readers, and their tales of the shady characters they encounter along the way make for a thrilling adventure.
VERDICT This entertaining account expands on a 2016 CNN five-part series and will be enjoyed by lovers of real-life con stories.
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