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Literature / Void Moon

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Void Moon is a 2000 crime novel written by Michael Connelly.

Cassie Black is a former professional thief specializing in stealing from Las Vegas gamblers. In the back story, a job at the Cleopatra casino in Vegas led to her lover Max being killed and Cassie herself getting arrested and serving five years in prison. Now Cassie has gone straight and is selling luxury cars at a dealership in Los Angeles. The reason she is in Los Angeles is to watch over the child she had with Max—she was pregnant at the time of the fatal robbery. Cassie was forced to put her daughter Jodie up for adoption after giving birth in prison.

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Cassie is already dissatisfied with the boring straight life, but she is motivated to take action when she finds out that Jodie's adoptive parents are moving to Paris. She calls up Max's brother Leo, a career criminal, and asks for work. In short order Leo comes up with a job: another robbery in the Cleopatra. A high roller is going to be visiting, and Leo's contacts tell him that the high roller will have $500,000 in his suitcase. Cassie uses her cat burglar skills to gain entrance into the mark's room and finds the suitcase, but the mark starts to wake up...

...cut to a few hours later and casino security investigator Jack Karch. Karch is called by Cleopatra owner Vincent Grimaldi, who has discovered the mark dead in his room. The mark wasn't a high roller, he was a Mafia bagman, and the suitcase contained $2.5 million, not $500,000. Karch, who also works as a hit man, is hired by Grimaldi to find and retrieve the missing money. Karch then sets off after the mysterious thief, murdering as he goes.

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Tropes:

  • Air-Vent Passageway: Thief Cassie Black uses this to get into a hotel room. Subverted towards the end of the novel however as the casino learned its lesson and added bars to the vents.
  • Anachronic Order: Not so much with the narration itself, but with the jumbled way details about the characters come out. We open on Cassie and Max's last job about to happen, then jump ahead to Cassie and her last job, then side-step to Karch and his investigation, and it's not really until the last third of the book that we learn what really happened on Cassie and Max's job. All through the book various details about character's back-stories are revealed, none of them in any logical order, from actual confirmation of who Jodie is right up to Karch's Luke, You Are My Father moment with Grimaldi.
  • Berserk Button: Jodie is not a baby. After all, she's almost six years old.
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  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Technically averted, since Karch does actually still kill Leo, but effective in stopping the torture and keeping Karch from getting the location of the money.
  • Bland-Name Product: Cassie is robbing an Egyptian-themed casino called the Cleopatra, which is obviously modeled after the Real Life Luxor casino.
    • Averted with a mention of Paramount Pictures, instead of Connelly's usual go-to, "Archway Studios."
  • Briefcase Full of Money: What Cassie is stealing. She is unpleasantly surprised to find out that it contains $2.5 million, not $500K, and that it belongs to the mob.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Karch's sleight of hand generally, but his ability to palm his .25 most specifically.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Cassie largely fits this role.
  • Continuity Nod: All of Michael Connelly's fiction is in the same universe. This could have been a stand-alone novel, but Connelly connects it to the rest of his universe by making a passing reference to the Las Vegas shootout that ended novel Trunk Music, as well as mentioning LVPD cop John Iverson, a character in that novel. (The character of Cassie Black later makes a cameo in Connelly novel The Narrows.)
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: While the immediate motivation for returning to a life of a crime is the impending departure of her daughter, Cassie admits to herself that she really did enjoy being a criminal. She muses at length on the rush she always got while on a job.
    "She remembered how after a while it hadn’t even been about the money. It was about the charge it put in their blood. She remembered how they could stay up the rest of the night making love after a job was finished."
  • Disney Villain Death: The climax has Karch falling out of the hotel room—the same room that Max fell out of—to his death.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Cassie is stated not to carry a gun and never to have used one. It's a hint that she didn't kill the mark.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Karch, while "test driving" the Porsche with Cassie. Does it to threaten her, but actually does almost lose control.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Karch drives a Lincoln, a car which soon will be indelibly tied to another Connelly character.
  • Eiffel Tower Effect: Played for dark humor when Jodie sees a Las Vegas casino's half-size replica and asks if they're in France now.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Karch is established as a vicious evil sociopath when he casually shoots Jersey Paltz to death for his secondary involvement in the robbery.
    • Before that, when we are first meeting Karch, the narration mentions misdirection, a key element of sleight of hand. It turns out not to be coincidental.
  • Eye Scream: The mafia bag man who was carrying the money is found dead in his room, having been shot directly in the right eye at close range.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • While looking at the Shaw house, it occurs to Cassie how most people wouldn't want the play area of their yard to be in the front, where something might happen to their child. Karch later abducts Jodie right out of the yard.
    • Cassie's parole officer Thelma Kibble picks up on Cassie's distress and says that maybe she'll pay a surprise visit. Sure enough, she does, leading to a violent confrontation with Karch as Karch is searching Cassie's house.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Cassie plans One Last Job: the robbery of a high-rolling gambler, for which she expects a six-figure payday so she can disappear with her daughter. The job winds up netting $2,500,000 in mob money, far more than anyone will ever let her just disappear with.
    It was not the pot of gold at the end of every thief's rainbow. Rather, it was cause for concern and suspicion.
  • Groin Attack: Jersey Paltz, the camera tech who sells Cassie the equipment she needs for the robbery, pulls a gun and tries to double-cross her. She kicks him in the nuts and then ties him up.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Leo tells Cassie when it comes to hiding the money “that the best hiding place was one in plain sight.” He was right, as Karch fails to find the money, which was wrapped up in the waste bag of Leo's automated pool vacuum.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Averted. Karch fires a shot in the hotel room "which was still quite loud despite the silencer."
  • I Am What I Am: Cassie comes to this realization while visiting her parole officer, and realizes that she has to get back to crime to live her life the way she wants to, and to be with her daughter. Leo, who recognizes that she has made this realization, confesses that he came to his own while boosting airbags from Chryslers when he was young.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Played with. Jodie Shaw asks Karch how he did a magic trick, and he starts to say this, but doesn't finish, probably figuring she wouldn't get the threat.
  • I Have a Family: "I got two kids", says Thelma when Karch gets the drop on her in Cassie's house. Karch then shoots her. (She survives.)
  • Irony: Karch has plans to occupy the crow's nest at the Cleo. He gets there in the end.
  • It's All My Fault: Cassie, right after her Stress Vomit (below).
    The words "I did this, I did this, I did this" kept running through her head.
  • It's Personal: Karch deeply hates the Chicago outfit because they ruined his father, and blames Max for his years of servitude to Grimaldi.
  • Knee Capping: Karch takes out both of Leo's knees trying to get the location of the money.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "Th-th-th-that's all folks!" Doubles as a Coincidental Broadcast.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Karch imports this information to the man he is murdering.
  • Promotion to Parent: Leo Renfro had to care for his younger stepbrother Max Freeling.
  • The Mafia: The money in the briefcase is meant as a bribe to facilitate the purchase of a casino by the Chicago mafia.
  • Millennium Bug: An amusing non-computer-related take: Leo thinks that the world's supply of champagne is going to be significantly depleted by the celebrations of the new millennium, so he's got 6000 bottles hoarded on spec to cash in.
    • Leads to a bit of a Funny Background Event towards the end of the story, when the news reports on Millennium-related champagne hoarding.
  • Nice Hat: The mailbox guy says this verbatim to Karch, who only later considers that it may have been said in Sarcasm Mode.
  • Oddball in the Series: Michael Connelly has been writing novels since 1992 and until the Renee Ballard series started with The Late Show in 2017, this was Connelly's only book with a female protagonist. It is also the only one that doesn't involve law enforcement and isn't really a mystery, but is instead a crime drama with a criminal protagonist. While most of Connelly's work is reminiscent of mystery writer Raymond Chandler, this one is more similar to the crime fiction of Elmore Leonard.
  • One Last Job: Both the backstory and the present-day heist. Cassie Black was going to run away with her lover after the big score in the backstory; in the present day she wants to get away with her daughter.
  • Product Placement: Cassie works for a Porsche dealer, so yeah.
  • Rewatch Bonus: After you learn where the money's hidden, suddenly it makes a lot more sense why Connelly spends so much time talking about that stupid pool vac.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: A couple of mentions of the legal troubles of then-President Bill Clinton related to his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: Cassie thinks she is robbing a high roller of $500K and is horrified to learn that he was a mob bagman and she actually stole $2.5 million.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Karch, incognito, telling Cassie what he does for a living:
    I guess you could say I'm a troubleshooter. I'm a business consultant.... I'm a magician, really. I make other people's problems disappear.
  • Shout-Out: Karch uses the pseudonym "Terrill Lankford," taken from a book he saw at Leo's house. Lankford is a real author and film director, who later worked with Connelly.
    • Cassie is partial to Lucinda Williams.
  • Shown Their Work: After reading this book, you will know more about sleight of hand than most people who aren't actively seeking information on sleight of hand really need.
  • The Sociopath: Unlike most sociopaths, Karch cheerfully admits to this when he says he'll kill anybody, and Cassie calls him a psychopath.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: All Cassie has left of Max.
  • Spy Speak: How Cassie gets in touch with Leo again after so long.
  • Stage Magician: Karch's father had been one until some Mafiosi took offense at being made to look like rubes.
  • Stress Vomit: Cassie, when she learns that Karch killed Ray and Connie.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Almost a third of the book is told from the perspective of Cassie Black, as she elects to go back to a life of crime, meets Leo, and takes the Vegas job. Then the book switches to Karch for the next third, as he investigates the missing money and hunts down Cassie Black. The last third or so of the book switches back and forth from chapter to chapter as Cassie and Karch play their deadly cat-and-mouse game.
  • Title Drop: Leo, who is superstitious and believes in astrology, cautions Cassie not to enter the hotel room during a 20-minute window that will be a "void moon", that is, a period when the Moon is passing between astrological signs.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The mark in the penthouse at the Cleo. Cassie has to call his room to get him to get him out of bed after starting a fire down the hall to make the smoke alarms come on.
  • What Have We Ear?: Karch, on multiple occasions.
  • Worthy Opponent: Karch uses these exact words to describe the unknown person who stole $2.5 million from the suite at the Cleopatra.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Karch threatens Jodie by telling her she'll "be with [her] daddy real soon." He thinks of it as a "joke."
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