The thing about Gwenda Bond is that she’ll take your favorite microgenre or trope, mix some magic in, and give you a whole new story to enjoy. Which is exactly what she does with The Frame-Up. She takes an art heist story and adds in magic powers that make people good at their roles: mastermind, hacker, and more.

But Gwenda’s website tagline for a while was “High Concept with Heart,” and even more than the magic, the heart is what really makes The Frame-Up shine. This is a story about a daughter dealing with the fallout of betraying her mother and learning how to be right with herself whether or not her mother ever forgives her.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

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

Dani Poissant is the daughter and former accomplice of the world’s most famous art thief, as well as being an expert forger in her own right. The secret to their success? A little thing called magic, kept rigorously secret from the non-magical world. Dani’s mother possesses the power of persuasion, able to bend people to her will, whereas Dani has the ability to make any forgery she undertakes feel like the genuine article.

At seventeen, concerned about the corrupting influence of her mother’s shadowy partner, Archer, Dani impulsively sold her mother out to the FBI—an act she has always regretted. Ten years later, Archer seeks her out, asking her to steal a particular painting for him, since her mother’s still in jail. In return, he will reconcile her with her mother and reunite her with her mother’s old gang—including her former best friend, Mia, and Elliott, the love of her life.

The problem is, it’s a nearly impossible job—even with the magical talents of the people she once considered family backing her up. The painting is in the never-before-viewed private collection of deceased billionaire William Hackworth—otherwise known as the Fortress of Art. It’s a job that needs a year to plan, and Dani has just over one week. Worse, she’s not exactly gotten a warm welcome from her former colleagues—especially not from Elliott, who has grown from a weedy teen to a smoking-hot adult. And then there is the biggest puzzle of all: why Archer wants her to steal a portrait of himself, which clearly dates from the 1890s, instead of the much more valuable works by Vermeer or Rothko. Who is her mother’s partner, really, and what does he want?

What I loved

The art, honestly. Great descriptions of art and art periods. Dani is a character with a clear love and respect for the art she forges. The heist crew vibes: everybody’s got their role and while Dani is working with her mom’s estranged team, there is still love there between herself and Mia and Elliott, the two other members of the team close to her age. The intense interiority: always seeing inside Dani’s heart, her desire for her mother’s approval, her regret about her past actions. Most of all, Dani’s sweet dog Sunflower.

What I need to warn you about

Not much here, except there are some really garbage parents and their adult kids are dealing with the repercussions of having been raised by such rotten people.

What I wanted more of

I mean, I would read a lot more heists with this crew, so… Sequels?

Who should read this

People who like fantasy set in our world. People who like heists and secrets. People who like paintings. People who like reading about fancy rich folks. People who like reading about Kentucky. People who like border collies.

Book: The Frame-Up
Author: Gwenda Bond
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: February 13, 2024
Pages: 352
Age Range: Adult
Source of Book: ARC via NetGalley

A colorful book cover for “The Frame-Up” by Gwenda Bond, featuring illustrations of a man holding a framed artwork, a woman stealing a painting, and an observing dog. The title and the author’s name are written in large red and white letters. There is also a quote from Holly Black praising the book.