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They Call Them Grifters

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It's not easy to track a mother-and-son con team who steal everything from identities to mink coats, but journalist Alice McQuillan effectively manages to pin down the elusive Sante and Kenneth Kimes in They Call Them Grifters. In this comprehensive true-life tale, McQuillan chronicles the bizarre career of this audacious duo in a breathless style reminiscent of cheeky, sensationalist tabloids (the author is a reporter for the New York Daily News). Dubbed "The Grifters" after the 1990 movie in which Anjelica Huston and John Cusack play a similar mother-son team, the Kimeses are accused of defrauding millionaires out of mansions, wiping out entire bank accounts, and even murder (the pair were awaiting trial in New York for the latter when this book went to print). McQuillan has pieced together old newspaper accounts, court documents, and interviews with former friends, classmates, and spouses to produce this page-turning portrait of a crime spree stretching from Los Angeles to the Bahamas. Sante, the manipulative mastermind of the pair, graduated from a small-time shoplifter to a Washington, D.C., party crasher to a nasty millionairess who abused maids and held them against their will by threatening to expose their illegal immigration status. Although the psychology of the pair is less developed, McQuillan turns in the who, what, when, and where regarding this criminally dysfunctional family. --Jodi Mailander Farrell.

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