The beginning of spring term means a fresh start, a clean slate, which is exactly what Mickey Steinberg in “Mickey Outside” is looking for. The enthralling white-collar crime thriller by David Lender tells the story of Mickey, who is serving a three-year sentence in a “country club” prison for major white-collar criminals after taking part in an insider-trading scheme that earned billions.
At the beginning of the story, Mickey employs Paul, a fellow white-collar criminal at the “country club,” to start a new scheme with him when they get out. Unlike the insider-trading scheme from before, the two conmen decide to sell a forged copy of a stolen Van Gogh painting (that never resurfaced) in the secretive New York art market.
The story is told from the perspective of Mickey and his manipulative mind. He is a character that everyone loves to hate, but there is something different about him. Through his scheming and planning, Mickey reveals that getting more money isn’t the only goal for him; he also wants to win back his ex-wife from a hotshot art dealer who moved into Mickey’s apartment while he was in prison.
With the turn of each page comes a twist in this story that makes for a fast-paced and intriguing read. The reader will feel for Mickey as “his entire way of life was potentially coming to an end, and his reaction, or lack of it, fascinated him.”
The most interesting aspect of this novel is how Lender presents his characters and their motivations. For each main character, there is never a simple answer or single justification for their actions, which provides layered personalities and realistic interactions between them.
Lender throws in a crazy man seeking revenge against Mickey for their encounters before his imprisonment, Paul’s Victoria’s Secret model girlfriend, and Mickey’s ex-wife Rachel to vividly paint the struggles between each of them.
While reading this novel, I found myself holding my breath with each page, rooting for the characters and hoping they wouldn’t get caught in the act. Mickey tries to explain his actions and says, “It’s hard to describe, but there’s a certain thrill you feel when you step up to that line you know you should never cross, and then lean over it and taste a little of what’s on the other side.”
While the characters are playing the part of knowledgeable art dealers, they realize that they must be well versed in other aspects of the world of fine arts, such as wine, music and food. At points, this suspense novel can be amusing as Paul tries to teach himself about the arts and Mickey feels “like he was a fraud, masquerading as someone who belonged.”
The one qualm I have with the characters in the story is that while Paul’s girlfriend is a Victoria’s Secret model, she also has a master’s degree in art history, which felt too good to be true at times.
I found myself finishing this novel in one day, because I really wanted to know what was ultimately going to happen with the art deal. Mickey describes his criminal dealings as “intoxicating” and Lender’s writing can be called the same. This story is a great read because it is one that blends together different genres and styles of writing to captivate readers. Will Mickey and Paul get away with their deal or will they find themselves in a position much worse than ever before? Pick up a copy of Lender’s “Mickey Outside” to find out!