“The stories in The Confidence Game can feel a bit clipped and superficial ... But this may be more of a statement about the endlessly juicy possibilities of the subject matter rather than a criticism of the shortcomings of the book.
For each step, Konnikova begins with a story of a real-life con, detours into psychological and behavioral studies that show how people act in these settings, and then concludes with the scam’s outcome. That formula gets a bit tiresome over 300-plus pages, but fortunately, the cons are usually entertaining and the studies revealing.
Usually, the complaint about social-science writing is that authors cherry-pick their data to support a slick argument. That isn’t Ms. Konnikova’s problem. Her problem is that she’s shaken the entire tree. In each chapter, she fills page after page with study after study, all generally in the service of making rather similar points.
The scams Konnikova recounts cheat lonely young women and esteemed academics alike. No one is really safe, because the con is less about who you are than where you are at a certain time in your life ... Konnikova’s book promises to make life just a little bit harder for con artists everywhere.