A Young Con Artist Goes Missing In This Excerpt From The Confidence Games

Books Features Tess Amy
A Young Con Artist Goes Missing In This Excerpt From The Confidence Games

We’re living in an age of scammers. From political grifters and digital fraud to fake heiresses, it often seems like everyone’s running some kind of But happens when the swindlers become the swindled? That’s the question at the heart of The Confidence Games, the rollicking debut novel from Tess Amy, which follows the story of two childhood friends turn con artists who find themselves on the wrong side of a heist.

Described as perfect for fans of Grace Lit’s Portrait of a Thief and Rachel Koller Croft’s Stone Cold Fox, the story follows Emma and Nellie, inseparable besties who have made a life out of crafting new identities and and stealing from men who deserve it. But when they find themselves on the wrong side of blackmail attempt, they’ll have to pull off the heist of their lives: stealing a priceless bracelet in the middle of the most high profile event  in London while surrounded by the city’s elite. 

Here’s how the publisher describes the story.

Emma Oxley and Nellie Yarrow have been inseparable their whole lives. Ever since they reinvented themselves, changing their names and wiping clean their digital footprints, they have made a game of following wherever the next adventure leads and challenging themselves to thefts, street cons, and mind games.

Adhering to only two rules–they will only swindle men, and only ones who deserve it–Emma and Nellie are secure in their reputation as the most trustworthy swindlers on the European black market. Until suddenly, they must play to save their own lives.

Blackmailed into stealing a priceless bracelet from a high-security exhibit, Emma will reexamine everything she believed to be true. This heist takes her far beyond her comfort zone…and she and Nellie will need allies among the glitzy bejeweled gathering in London in order to survive. Will they be able to do the right thing before it’s too late?

The Confidence Games will be released on Tuesday, July 9, but we’ve got an exclusive look at the story for you right now. 


Nellie isn’t here. She left. Walked out on me. 

Those were my first thoughts. Knee-jerk, irrational, bleeding out from old scars I’d so hoped had healed.

But no. She hadn’t left me. Impossible. There had to be another explanation. She’d probably just left the suite to stretch her legs or to fetch something from reception. Or maybe she went down for another drink at the bar. Alone? But wasn’t it closed already? Or maybe, like she’d done the last time we were in London, she’d gone to Mayfair to test-drive the latest Aston Martin. At eleven p.m.? And maybe she just left the shower running by mistake.

I recited all these options to myself as I left the suite, marched down the hotel corridor, to the bar, the restaurant, the Palm Court, the lobby, and even halfway down Piccadilly Street in a howling gale.

But Nellie was nowhere to be seen.

Sucking in increasingly ragged breaths, nerves jangling, instincts screaming that something was off, I made my way back up to the suite, closed the door behind me, and crossed into the lounge.

If I really thought about it, it wasn’t out of character for Nellie to run off somewhere in the middle of the night. Often, when we were staying in a foreign city, she’d leave me lounging in our hotel room with the latest Hello! magazine and a bottle of wine while she went off to dance the night away with a bunch of strangers at some swanky cocktail lounge. She also used to do it when we were kids, lots, like all those times she’d slept over when my parents went on holiday without me. Pillow forts, tea parties, Harry Potter by torchlight, and when we ran out of things to eat, she would skip off to buy us sweets and crisps with the money she’d nicked from Dad’s back pocket. But still, not once in all our years together had she ever gone anywhere with- out telling me. 

“Something’s definitely not right,” I muttered nervously to myself, surveying the room.

The TV was still on E! News, which was now running a re- port on Leonardo DiCaprio’s new supermodel fling. I glanced again at Nellie’s half-unpacked suitcase, then checked the time— 11:36. What was I missing? Maybe she had told me where she was going before she left the hotel bar; maybe I just hadn’t been listening. And what about that phone call she’d received just as she’d left? Was it a call from her brother, Jack? Or her parents? Unlike my family, the Yarrows did actually keep in contact. But no, it couldn’t have been. Nellie never gave out our number to anyone. Neither did I.

Theory squashed, I turned again to examine Nellie’s belong- ings, hoping to find some sign of where she’d gone.

And then I heard it: footsteps—a soft, quick pat-pat—coming from the corridor. Closer. Closer.

I tensed. Not Nellie’s footsteps, not the certain, steady pace I knew so well. 


The suite door swung open. I gasped, took a step backward.

A young girl, around nine or ten, dressed in faded pajamas patterned with sleeping dinosaurs and sporting a mousy brown pixie cut, skidded to a halt in the foyer, a worn blue backpack slung over her shoulder and a mix of surprise and relief on her face.

“Hello,” she panted, her pale skin glistening with sweat, a slight tremble in her bottom lip and puffy red rings encircling her eyes, like she’d been crying. She shuffled forward, then back again, as unsure of me as I was of her. “I’m . . . I’m Sophia.”

I stared at her, my mouth hanging open.

“Sophia Keeling,” she added breathlessly when I didn’t react. “Oh. Hello. And what—” I looked past her, at the door, which I was very certain I’d locked. Yes. Definitely. I’d locked it.

So how did she get in? I put a hand to my neck, the throb of my pulse rapid under my fingertips.

“I have a message for you,” she explained, lowering her voice and edging closer. “It’s urgent.”


Sophia glanced furtively over her shoulder and repeated, “A message. From the bad man.”

“Bad man?” I echoed, marching past her toward the door, still completely baffled by whatever was going on. Nellie, who’d grown up around a gazillion cousins and knew how to deal with kids and the strange things they say, would’ve almost certainly known what this scruffy child was getting at. I, however, hadn’t the foggiest. “What bad man?”

Sophia huffed, like I’d just asked a really dumb question that she didn’t have time to answer. “The one who took your friend!”

I was frozen for a moment, unable to speak or move.

 The one who took your friend. 

Excerpted from THE CONFIDENCE GAMES by Tessa Amy, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2024

The Confidence Games will be released on July 9, but you can pre-order it right now. 

Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB

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