The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid
Yet Charlie is less alarmed than intrigued. This is the most thrilling thing that’s happened to him since he came to France with his father, an American diplomat. So instead of reporting the thieves, Charlie defends one of their cannons, Amir, to the police, under one condition: he teach Charlie the tricks of the trade.
What starts off as a lesson on pinches, kicks, and chumps soon turns into an invitation for Charlie to join the secret world of the whiz mob, an international band of child thieves who trained at the mysterious School of Seven Bells. The whiz mob are independent and incredibly skilled and make their own way in the world—they are everything Charlie yearns to be. But what at first seemed like a (relatively) harmless new pastime draws him into a dangerous adventure with global stakes greater than he could have ever imagined.
French Criminal Gangs
In 1961, Charlie Fisher is a poor little rich kid whose mother has decided that she's tired of caring for him, so he gets shipped off to stay with his father, a diplomat living in Marseilles, France. He has a tutor, and gets to go to lots of posh events, but there's something lacking in his life. While writing a story while observing the crush of life around him, he notices pickpocketing going on and then meets Amir. Amir makes off with Charlie's silver fountain pen, intriguing Charlie even more. He finds a business card for a restaurant, and sets out to meet the group of child thieves. The "whiz mob" is a diverse group of young people who travel around the town relieving the well-to-do of jewelry, wallets, and other possessions. Charlie is strangely honored to be accepted into the group, practises his own pickpocketing skills, and spends his days robbing the public, which is more exciting than studying his Latin. When Amir tells Charlie to quit running with the group, the two fall out. Amir leaves the group, and Charlie is excited to be able to take part in a "big tip" for a change. When the event turns out to be one that his own father is at, will Charlie be able to see what the group's long con is?
The details about daily life in this exotic town in the 1960s are exquisite, and Charlie's privileged life is appealing, if a bit dull. His father's job is a little vague, but ultimately takes center stage in the whiz mob's plans.
While the amount of diversity depicted might not have existed in Marseilles at this time, it's nice to see a variety of countries of origin. The mob is headquartered in Bogota, Colombia, and the children are recruited from all over the world, which is why there are children from the US, Russia, and other countries. Amir is a great character, and his longing for the smell of baking from his home country is especially touching.
The writing style is reminiscent of Lemony Snicket, with snarky asides to the audience, and there is also a vast quantity of pickpocket slang used. Readers who enjoy quirky historical fiction with a dash of adventure, will find The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid as refreshing as a nice tall glass of grenadine and milk.