Troubador Crooked

Released: 28/08/2020

ISBN: 9781838595036

eISBN: 9781800468450

aISBN: 9781803138251

Format: Paperback/eBook/Audio Book

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Honest Criminality


Ashia ‘Ash’ Cox isn’t your average teenager. She’s a sixteen-year-old con artist headed for greatness – until celebrity criminal Harry Holmes destroys the family and life she loves.

Taking matters into her own hands, Ash links up with Esther Crook – a legendary con who has her own motivations against Holmes and his associates. After a little persuasion, Esther puts together a new crew using Ash as ‘the insider’. The crew feel the heat of the criminals on one side and the encroaching crime agencies on the other, but as the heist unfurls, who is really doing the conning and who is pulling the strings?

With plot twists aplenty, Crooked raises the stakes in crime fiction as the plot equally surprises – and cons – the reader.

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Nov 2nd & review is live here

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The Bookbag's Top Ten Self-Published Books of 2021

Brecon and Radnor Express

This is an amazing book! Full of twists and turns with a few surprises thrown in! Definitely a page turner and I couldn’t put it down! Bron is definitely going to turn heads in the book world! A thrilling read from start to finish!

by Rhian Lewis

I love the characters in this book - from the community of con artists, with their own language and social structure and rules to the villains oily motivations. The dialogue is snappy and reminiscent to old movies from years ago. It has pretty much everything you could want, great characters, good story, suspense, morality, a little bit of romance, surprises... what more could you ask for?

by Sam

I couldn’t put this book down! Its a good story with multiple cons going on at the same time, making you wonder who to trust. A real page turner

by Sarah

A sleek crime book which is tightly plotted but has some great twists and turns. I loved it !

by Rhiannon Huntingdon

Okay will admit I’m not much of a reader so I’m quite willing to say I’ve really enjoyed this book

by Tomas

Thoroughly enjoyed this read. Plenty of twists and turns to suit this new mum!

by Abigail Henson

Finally finished this book! Thoroughly enjoyed it must say - you find that you want to root for these people who are criminals. A bit of an eye-opener to say the least.

by Lewis

You want twists ?
You want suspense?
You want to understand a con artist ?
Then this is the book for you ... Honest Criminality is about a sixteen year old Ash ... get to know how her life turns and twists with her con artist team you will not be disappointed, love how Bronwen has kept old style villains , loved reading every word ! Looking forward to the next book

by Victoria Jones

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Lots of unexpected twists and turns right until the end. Great characters who I have no doubt that some of them will be conning us all again in the future.

by Rachel Hughes

"Boasting a powerful cast of complex female characters that will stretch a reader’s idea of morality and the lines of the law, Crooked by Bronwen John is a bold and unforgettable thrill. With flashes of YA informality and easy reading, but also offering up nuanced ideas about art, criminality, human development, and ethics, this swirling heist novel is both unpredictable and highly polished. There is the occasional tendency to over-explain the significance of a plot point, or an interaction, but these subtle flaws don’t undercut the impact of the story, nor the unique perspective of this book’s feisty and fearless protagonist."

by Self-Publishing Review

It is my stop for this thrilling read on its blog tour, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts (so I hope you keep reading).

I was gifted a copy of ‘Crooked’ and I know you should not judge a book by its cover, but I was immediately intrigued by this YA thriller. And this continued as soon as I started reading.

You are immediately thrown into the action; in central London, you meet Ash and her friends as they are involved in a bit of a con. It seems to be quite a money maker for the gang, until they select the wrong mark. And, a turn for the worse, as Ash is dragged into conflict with a dangerous London gangster – or two.

Now, this is another brilliant read that I do not want to spoil for you all. However, I can say that something that I thought was excellent about this book is that there are strong, independent female leads. And they are not scared to take on the men.

There are so many twists and turns in this book that you are not sure who you trust – and who the characters trust. I just had to keep reading, keen to know what revelation would come next and who was really conning who.

So, if you love a thrilling read (and an adventure), whatever your age, then this is the book for you. So, why not pick up a copy and give it go?

by Bookworm and Theatre Mouse

You are immediately thrown into the action when you meet Ash and her friends. She’s a brilliantly written, independent, strong female lead; something that is done in YA fiction to varying degrees of success. And whilst she works well in her team, you just know she’s capable of taking care of herself.

The plot is well crafted and full of twists and turns. At times I found myself getting a little lost as the pace was so quick; not necessarily a bad thing – at least I was never bored – but it meant I had to go back over parts to ensure I’d fully understood everything before moving on. It got a little confusing in parts, so I wouldn’t say this is a novel you can race through for fear of getting lost and missing something important.

And because it was so unpredictable, I just didn’t know who to trust. It had a real gritty ‘Old Hollywood’ film vibe to it in the way the dialogue paid homage to more traditional gangster/con artist films.

by Gemma

My mind is blown! Wow!
Crooked is classed as a mystery thriller and damn is it that and more. This story had the most twists and turns I have ever read. Can I just say this book is epic, I loved it. I want to read it again – right now! Ash is a bad ass and damn is she good as a con artist. I love her fight and her determination. Esther, I expected to be old, was in fact young herself. She is a master mastermind. She is clever!. Then the rest of the con team, each with big important roles. Everyone is the rainmaker. I love that this book was all about many a long and short con but also getting payback and evidently getting the bad guys. I really enjoyed learning about all the cons and how clever it is.
I love how a con is described as not thievery as the victim in fact willingly gives you the money. So in hindsight you are not stealing it, so you are not breaking the law. This story is full of twists and turns and not once did I work out what was going to happen. Many a time I was left in shock. Honestly I was captivated in this criminal world and wanted to read more books that are about cons. I also loved the end sections describing all about the con jargon and terminology, as it explains in further detail and evidently you understand. If you love crime and thriller books then I really recommend this book! Hats off to you Bronwen!

by Amy (Insta Lets_escape_with_books)

I really wanted to like this novel more than I did, I wanted to love it. It’s not that this was a bad book, i just don’t think it was my type of book. I enjoyed the fast paced and quick moving storyline. I liked that the protagonists were both females.
I just found that there were a lot of characters to remember 0 especially as the story went on and most of them were in disguise. I just found myself a little bit lost at times.
I definitely did not see the ending coming and it was definitely the redeeming factor for me! It was genius and it had me wondering what would happen next.
Throughout it had a real ‘old Hollywood’ film vive and I think it would make an excellent film. This was a good book and I’m glad I read it – it just didn’t excite me! But maybe that was just me

by Amrit (Anovelpage)

Well this book certainly introduced me into the world of the con artist – I enjoyed the strong female characters and the peek into the goings on of the criminal underworld and the art of playing the long con.
I did find the plot a little complicated and confusing at times as there are a lot of characters to get to know but the author is very descriptive in their writing style.
I think I would have liked a little more back story to fully understand the motivations of the characters but it is certainly left open for a sequel where is potential for this to be explored further.

by Blossom (blossoms_bookshelf)

I loved everything about this book. Such an original story line. Some may find it a little difficult to connect the dots initially as you try recall who each character is, but once you've cracked it I found this gripping. A number of genuinely tense scenes. A couple of great twists. I will look forward to reading more of Bronwen John's work

by Mrs b

Crooked is a very enjoyable fast paced read, there are parts of the books that are intentionally slow as "patience is a virtue and the best warrior of its master : time" This book was very well written and there were times that I found myself confused through the book, but as with con artist these were just slight of hands to allow for the plot twists at the end, which there are plenty of!

The book format is great, explaining the scam at the beginning, but also taking each part of the book step by step, for example; the ”Playing The Con” part of the book and “The Sting” I found that there was a lot of terminology in regards to the con-artist world used within the book – expectedly, and there is a nice index at the end of the book in case the reader needs to find a description of anything, which is a nice addition to the book, my only downside with the writing style/book format is that I feel it would benefit from confirming in some scenes as to whose dialogue is whose, as there were sometimes I was unsure and had to re-read the scene.

There are a large number of characters in this book (as expected with a husting crew – there are usually members aplenty) to keep up with so this book does require a lot of focus as to not become confused or lost in the con as a reader – which again I feel is intentional from the author, as I did myself find myself becoming confused, but hold out because all makes sense at the end, and its just phenomenal writing, and thoroughly thought out.

There were many scenes in the book I found myself really enjoying, way too many to name in this review without giving the book away, but Ash & Esther’s first meeting was noteworthy, I loved the way that Ash’s behaviour was called out on, but I found her behaviour as a sixteen-year-old plausible, as well as the con on the cruise ship, that was exceptional. The character development in the book is also very well thought out and written and I found myself really caring for and routing for Ash & Esther who are the main “good guys” in this book.

I found that the way that the book ended feels like it could be a series and I would be very interested in reading a second. I would recommend this book highly to anyone who is interested in mystery-based books, as majority of the time you are unsure who to trust in this book, but don’t they say there is no honour amongst thieves? The only trigger warning in this book is that there is a slight theme of violence, but that is to be expected from the criminal underworld

by Georgina powers

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There were some elements that come across as poetic. The relationship built between Ash and Esther makes me laugh and I connected with them. I don’t want to go into the plot too much as I don’t want to spoil it but the ending made this book for me! I’d love for this to be a running series featuring Ash and how her life progresses, that could just be because I’m greedy and I want more of things I like!

by Onmybookshelf

Although Bronwen John has previously published several works of poetry and a children’s book, I believe this is her first adult novel and goodness me what a debut! This was a really gripping, intense read. There’s a lot going on - multiple characters, including some strong females which was fantastic to see. The story is complex but reels you right in - so many twists and turns! Really enjoyed this gritty book - highly recommended

by Daisy Hollands

From the first page we are introduced to our main character Ash. Ash isn't a normal teenager, she's a con artist. Her mentor and father figure Luke Gaines and friends are all con artists. But then Esther cons the wrong mark the son of criminal Harry Holmes which brings her world crashing down around her. Ash goes to Norway to learn from Esther Cook an infamous con artist and together with Esther works with a team on another con. But Harry Holmes is still hot on her heels?

From the first page you are drawn into Ash’s world and one of her cons straight away. The tips and tricks used by Ash are brilliant as is her ability to read people.

What attracted me to the book was the idea of a 16 year old con artist. The TV show Hustle is one of my favourite series and when I read the synopsis it gave me hustle vibes. I’ve never read a book that involves con artists or cons so I was super intrigued when this popped up as a blog tour. I was not disappointed this is read. I was drawn into the con world and its characters completely. Especially when a con doesn’t go to plan the character work together to change the plan to make it a success. I really enjoyed learning about each character and their backstory. The more I delved into the book ii realised that all those involved in the cons had their own agendas in some ways.

A perfect story of cons conning cons

by Book shortie) Insta handle)

Although the synopsis catches your eye with the need for discovery, I was, unfortunately, unenthused. In the beginning, there was the introduction to our main characters that allowed the reader to see how the young con was able to swoon her victims. This, I must admit, was captivating at first, but the climax seemed a bit rushed. For such a hefty book, I expected the climax to come later. For me, personally, if the novel's storyline does not captivate me in the first few chapters, it is not worth the effort. Other readers may not have the same sentiment as I do, which is why this one just isn't for me.

That being said, I wouldn't recommend reading this novel for readers like myself, that look for a captivating read in the beginning of any story. However, if you love mystery and crime with an element of surprise, I would say try this one out for size. You might have a different response than I did.

by Emilia riviera

If you liked Hustle on tv then you will enjoy this book. It sets out way a con artist works which can sometimes be confusing but then comes together

by Wendy Macey

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There were some elements that come across as poetic. The relationship built between Ash and Esther makes me laugh and I connected with them. I don’t want to go into the plot too much as I don’t want to spoil it but the ending made this book for me! I’d love for this to be a running series featuring Ash and how her life progresses, that could just be because I’m greedy and I want more of things I like!

by Kathy B

‘Crooked’ is so clever and slick that at times you stop and go what just happened? It is a great heist/grifter novel that just is begging to be read. I was so impressed with the story and the code of honour that these guys have. It was full of twists and turns right up to the final page, it hooked me right in and I devoured it over a couple of sitting. Oh boy it was hard to put down!

The novel begins with Ash pulling a con not realising that the mark is a notorious gangster’s son and due to this they now have a price on their heads. Events occur which place Ash in Norway working with the best con artist in the business - Esther Crook! The action soon reverts back to London though in an attempt to con Harry Holmes, that notorious gangster from the start.

This is definitely a clever book and it made me think of BBC drama Hustle which I loved. I could definitely see this working as a movie for sure. The narrative is so fast paced that you don’t get time to recover from one part of the con till the next one is right there bang in your face. But this is how this genre should be and I loved this story! I would love to read more about these characters. I hope Bronwen has more up her sleeve. Also as a side note she wrote me a lovely wee note along with the book and I love authors who do this and interact with their readers. Plus it was on cute stationary so I’m guaranteed to love her!

You won’t go wrong if you get this book a try. Great plot, great characters, fast paced and intelligent to boot. What more do you need

by Bindu

Really enjoyed the style of writing. The plot draws the reader into the world of con artists and scams. Ash one of the ‘con’ artists cons the wrong person who just happens to be a gangster’s son. It reminded me a lot of the film Now you see me. The characters and plot were cleverly wrote. Really excited for more books from this author.

by Helen

This book was completely unexpected, I could never tell where the story was going to end up. John writes this story in such a way that you’re constantly rooting for Ash even if she does do questionable things at times. Her writing drags you into this story and refuses to let you go until you finish the book. Highly recommend!

by Robin

The con had seemed like a good one: tricking people into buying artwork supposedly by the new Banksy - and they should have made a decent profit from it. The problem was they were too successful: one of the marks had bought a few and then discovered that they were valueless. Henry Martin Holmes had fallen for a simple con and his father, celebrity criminal Harry Holmes, was determined that he and his family could not lose face like that. The grifters were going to pay. Ashia 'Ash' Cox and Max 'Colorado' Ying needed to be got out of the country. In the course of bringing this about, Luke Gaines, Ash's foster father, lost his life.

Ash is just sixteen but she became a pickpocket at thirteen and she's a good con artist. She'd learned a lot from Luke Gaines but she's now heading for Norway and the legendary Esther Crook. Crook's day job is poker player but what she doesn't know about the long-con isn't worth knowing. And Esther has her own reasons for going after Holmes: he killed her mother. It's not long before she's persuaded to put together a crew, with Ash as the insider, to hit Holmes where it hurts - in his reputation. It's not going to be easy though: Holmes is after Esther and the crime agencies are closing in too.

That actually sounded quite simple, didn't it? Well, it isn't. You're going to have to be in the wide-awake club to keep track of what's happening in Crooked: this book has real pace and you can't really relax until you've turned the final page. Even then you'll wonder if you've missed something important. There's that sort of dramatic tension. Strings are being pulled but by whom - and who is doing the conning? There's only one person you feel is really in control and that's Esther but it's not only in poker that she plays her cards close to her chest. Sometimes you'll wonder if you're being conned too...

I've not really been into TV programmes such as Hustle, so this was a whole, new genre for me and, boy, was I impressed. Don't worry if you're unfamiliar with a lot of the terms - there's an excellent glossary at the back of the book and I made a lot of use of it in the early pages - and then I was caught up in the story and it wasn't necessary. Bronwen John does a great job with her characters: I'll quibble very slightly and say that the women are better than the men but that is me being very picky. Esther has a strict moral code: she's not a thief and I loved her mantra: You can do what you like with the law; bend it, twist it, hide behind it... just don't break it.

Esther might be the star of the show but she has a splendid supporting actor in Ash Cox. John's skill as a writer is shown by the way that she brings out Ash's vulnerable side, her uncertainties and her impetuousness: she might be living in a world that's far from ideal for a girl in her mid-teens but John captures that moment in her development superbly.

For another heist story, have a look at Doors Open by Ian Rankin: it might be Rankin but Bronwen John has created a far-more gripping story in Crooked.

by Sue Magee (The BookBag)

Bronwen John

Bronwen John was born in Dyffryn Cellwen, South Wales. She attended Llangatwg Comprehensive before completing an English & Creative Writing Degree in University of Wales, Trinity St David . Her literary works include mostly poetry.

Article in The Brecon and Radnor Express
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