The Frame-Up

About the Book

A magically gifted con artist must gather her estranged mother’s old crew for a once-in-a-lifetime heist, from the New York Times bestselling author of Stranger Things: Suspicious Minds.

“Makes grand larceny more fun than ever.”—Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author of Book of Night

Dani Poissant is the daughter and former accomplice of the world’s most famous art thief. There was no job too big for Maria and her loyal crew. The secret to their success? A little thing called magic, kept rigorously secret from the non-magical world. They seemed unstoppable . . . until a teenage Dani turned her mother over to the FBI.
Ten years later, with Maria still in prison, Dani finds herself approached for a job that only Maria and her crew could pull off . . . if any of them were still speaking to her. But it’s the job of a lifetime and might just be the lure Dani needs to reconcile with her mother and be reunited with her mother’s old gang—including both the love of her life and her former best friend.
The problem is, it’s an impossible task—even with the magical talents of the people she once considered family backing her up. It’s a heist that needs a year to plan, and Dani has just over a week. Worse, the more Dani learns, the more she understands that there’s far more at stake in this job than she ever realized.
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Praise for The Frame-Up

The Frame-Up is Gwenda Bond at her absolute best: magical, romantic, and fun as hell. Dani and her crew will leave your pockets empty and your heart full.”—Alix E. Harrow, New York Times bestselling author

“A clever art heist, a smoldering old flame, an irresistible found family tied together through magic . . . Gwenda Bond’s The Frame-Up is a twisty, riveting, and fantastically original story.”—Elle Cosimano, New York Times bestselling author of Finlay Donovan Is Killing It

“Magic, mystery, and a daring art heist set the stage for Gwenda Bond’s twisty, delightful read! Brimming with secrets, danger, and intrigue, The Frame Up explores the lure of power, the bonds of friendship, and the legacy of family. Clever, suspenseful, and impossible to put down.”—Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author of The Only Survivors

Ocean’s Eleven meets the Portrait of Dorian Grey in this delightful magical heist novel. A quirky cast, a charming protagonist, and a fantastic dog. Plus art history, monsters, and family secrets—who can ask for more?”—T. Kingfisher, bestselling author of Nettle & Bone

“A thrilling, twisty, deliciously fun portrait of a magical art heist. Gwenda Bond has crafted a clever Knives Out-but-with-magic book to keep readers guessing where the con will take them next.”—Megan Shepherd, New York Times bestselling author of Malice House

“I love a good heist novel, and I love a good magical heist novel even more. Gwenda Bond’s The Frame-Up is fun and moving and full of delicious surprises and twists. I enjoyed it immensely.”—Kat Howard, author of the Unseen World duology

“Who knew magic and art heists would go together like chocolate and peanut butter? The Frame-Up is a thoroughly delightful whirlwind of a read.”—Alma Katsu, author of The Fervor

“You had me at ‘magical con artist.’ Take my money! The Frame-Up is a super fun page-turner. Don’t miss it!”—Meg Shaffer, author of The Wishing Game
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The Frame-Up

Chapter One

Dani was settled at a sticky back table in the empty dive bar, waiting, when the mark arrived.

Tad Russell, attorney-at-law and cheating shitheel, had someone who looked like a bodyguard with him, and Dani wondered if this meet was going to be more complicated than expected. She hadn’t decided where to go after St. Louis yet, because of her more immediate cash-flow problem. She was broke, so this job needed to work out. Him bringing a gym rat along wasn’t a good sign.

Dani’s dog, Sunflower, growled without taking her head off Dani’s foot, throat vibrating against her leather boot.

Sunflower’s radar for the rotten rivaled Dani’s own. Most people looked at the dog and saw a lean, smiling border collie. They missed how smart she was, how sharp her teeth were. They had that in common too.

“I hear you,” Dani murmured and Sunflower subsided.

The mark spotted Dani and his chin ticked up. Bravado was an interesting choice, given the way he’d visibly sweated through his dress shirt. He could’ve hidden that by wearing his suit jacket, but he chose comfort instead. Just as he could have one less witness without his plus-one. You can tell a lot about people by the stupid decisions they make.

He’d made plenty to end up here. But then, so had Dani.

Dani nodded to indicate the chairs on the other side of the scarred table. The legs scraped the floor as the two men took them. The bodyguard type had a salt-and-pepper beard and didn’t quite hide the wince as he sat. Bad knees. He also had a weak chin and a certain kind of meanness around the eyes. Dani sized him up immediately: former law enforcement.

The bartender was the only other person here with them. The Meet and Greet was a shoebox-sized establishment that probably hadn’t been the site of an actual meet-cute in decades, if ever. Her brief encounter with the bartender told her that he’d never been a hero. Dani was on her own. Which . . . fine. Safer that way.

She believed that, most of the time.

“Tad, you rented yourself an ex-cop . . . Given why you’re here, I’m surprised.” She focused on the friend with the muscles. “Has he told you what he did?”

“He told me some little blond girl from out of town is trying to shake him down.”

Dani was average-sized, not little. And, at twenty-seven, not a girl, but a woman—although she was fine with the term “girl” when it wasn’t being used by a guy like this. She had no quibbles with the blond or the shaking-down or the out-of-town parts. Those were facts. But she wasn’t trying anything.

“So,” Dani said, “I’ll take that as a no, then.” She leaned in conspiratorially. “How do you two know each other?”

Tad’s smile was vintage sleazy lawyer. “I helped him put some crooks away.”

That was really how he was playing this? She took in the ex-cop again. “You and I may have more in common than I assumed. You liked making sure the bad guys got theirs?”

“I don’t—” He squinted and then said, “Yes.”

Tad frowned.

Dani reached down into her bag and extracted her folder on Tad without taking her eyes off either of them. She placed it on her side of the table. Tad’s hands gripped each other; it took effort for him not to reach for it.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “These aren’t the photos.”

“I don’t judge what goes on in people’s personal lives,” the ex-cop said.

Good for him, Dani supposed. She cared more than she should; she always had. An occupational hazard . . . to her.

But her line of work would be a lot trickier if men like Tad Russell weren’t so predictably awful. She’d come to town and hunted down the courthouse, rummaged through court filings to look over current custody disputes to find a promising case. It didn’t take long. It never did.

The juiciest stuff in family court is private, so she had paid a visit to the soon-to-be-divorced Mrs. Tad and offered to help her out for access. Mrs. Tad happily agreed. After all, her husband was attempting to take her kids and short her on alimony. His attorney was his business partner, and Facebook showed them both at a fundraiser with the judge assigned to the case. The wife’s lawyer went to night school and had only been practicing for two years. None of Tad’s colleagues wanted to piss him off, so she was going to get screwed.

Or she was before Dani showed up.

Tad’s financial disclosures were on the light side, especially after a few days of following him. He picked up the girlfriend he denied having in a sensible car and took her to a cheap spot for lunch. The house was nice enough, but not a mansion. His wife said he turned cheap two years ago, and before that he spent money like he had an endless supply. Looking at the assets of his firm and weighing them against his sensible lifestyle, the math put itself together. He covered his tracks more carefully than most, but she had done this plenty of times before.

The photos of him and his next wife that Dani snuck into his office after hours and left on his desk were only to get his attention. She needed some account info she correctly figured he kept there. When she called him, he blustered legal terms. She let him, and then told him to find the blonde with the dog at the Meet and Greet tonight at eight-thirty sharp. But the affair wasn’t why he ended up here.

“How many other men has your partner coached to do this?” she asked. She was genuinely curious about that. She lifted a hand before he could answer. “Never mind. Let’s get to it.”

Her fingers tingled as she flipped open the folder. She could have used magic, falsified the records so he’d accept them as real no matter how off they looked, except she didn’t let herself do that anymore. The community had iced her out after what she did. It didn’t seem right to use her power anymore.

Yes, she sometimes felt bad about doing this too. She passed the real bank statements she retrieved from his office safe across the table anyway.

He launched into a blustery pretense of confusion. “What is this—”

She held up her hand. “Can we not? I know you. You’re used to always believing you’re the smartest person in the room. But that’s not a fixed state,” she said. “The smartest person in the room one minute can turn into the biggest idiot you’ve ever met like that.” She snapped her fingers. Sunflower shifted beside her but stayed put.

The mark’s eyes narrowed. The cop friend was leaning forward, checking out the rows and columns. “That’s not his name up there,” he said.

She managed not to sigh. “No, but it’s his money in the account. I didn’t have time to look up the worst-case scenario for a lawyer caught falsifying assets in a divorce . . . But I know that skimming accounts and lying to the court about it will definitely mean disbarment.”

Look at that. Maybe Tad wasn’t as dumb as he seemed. He said, “What do you want?”

“Half the money.” He grimaced, but she wasn’t done. “The rest is your wife’s and she gets custody.” Behind every thieving man with a fat bank account, there was a woman who deserved more than she had. Dani could take all the money, but she didn’t need to. She could make peace with herself and sleep at night this way. Sometimes. And when it ran out, there’d be another mark, and so on, ad infinitum.

“You can’t make me give up my kids.”

“Oh, buddy.” She rustled the paper. “I could, but I won’t have to. You just wanted to win, and that’s no longer a possibility. I’m sure you’ll be happy with overnights and weekends. Like I told you, Tad, I may not be from around here, but I know you.”

He looked pleadingly at his ex-cop friend like he was about to suggest he rough up Dani or . . . honestly who knew what? She raised her brows and waited to see which direction this went. The bartender sensed a shift and disappeared into the back. She called that one.

The ex-cop pushed back from the table, and like that, he loomed over her. Sunflower growled. Tad grinned.

Shit, she was hoping it wouldn’t come to this. She wasn’t expecting two of them either, and she didn’t love the odds.

But she’d been doing this a long time. He had to transfer the funds or this was for nothing.

“Go for it,” she said, which they would think was for them, but was for Sunflower.

Dani reached beneath her leg to grab the Taser tucked there and lunged toward Tad, planting it between his thighs. Sunflower was growling and nipping at the ex-cop’s ankles, darting in and out too fast for him to kick, herding him away from the table. Some border collies herd sheep. Hers herded assholes.

“Now, Tad, have you ever been tased in the balls?” She tried not to take pleasure in how pale his face had gone, how afraid to move he was. “The manual calls it extremely effective.”

About the Author

Gwenda Bond
Gwenda Bond is the New York Times bestselling author of many novels, including the first official Stranger Things novel, Suspicious Minds, as well as the Match Made in Hell, Lois Lane, and Cirque American series. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with a veritable zoo of adorable doggos and queenly cats. She writes a regular newsletter, Dear Reader, available on Substack. More by Gwenda Bond
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Random House Publishing Group