Ezra Green and Orson Ortman meet cute, if one considers finding each other in a juvenile detention program charming. Rafael Frumkin (The Comedown) uses this set-up to its utmost impact in the amusing and razor-sharp Confidence. The two teens recognize in each other a propensity for conning others out of money. As adults, they prey on wealthy women and even richer men: conservative senators, lobbyists, evangelists and their "cheated-on wives," all of whom they call "blood suits." Then they stumble on their ultimate con game: establishing NuLife, a company selling happiness from wearable magnets. Ezra takes care of the business and charismatic Orson deals with the spiritual side as the two establish a sexual relationship. Apparently, no one told their clients happiness can't be bought. NuLife's phenomenal success expands internationally, with an upstate New York retreat called The Farm where devotees stay, making "a sort of trendy pilgrimage." Eventually, their empire cracks--a high-profile financial investigator accuses them of fraud, calling them "criminal" on national television; a graduate student claims they stole his idea; and victims they bilked years before go public. When violence erupts, it's surprising yet not unexpected.

Frumkin presents a sharp con game and heist plot in Confidence, offering perceptive views of business and love--and the need to believe in something. Ezra clearly is more smitten, though Orson is an opportunist, willing to do anything--and sacrifice any relationship--for his ambition. No matter how outlandish their exploits, Frumkin keeps readers firmly on their side. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer

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