Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge by Spencer Quinn
What’s it About?
Mrs. Plansky receives a phone call from a voice claiming to be her grandson, who needs ten thousand dollars to get out of a jam. By morning, she has lost everything to the scammers. She follows her only clue on a whirlwind adventure to a small village in Romania to get her money and her dignity back.
Spencer Quinn is the pseudonym of writer Peter Abrahamsand the author of the delightful and addicting Chet and Bernie mystery series as well a number of other works of fiction. Time and again he has proven himself to be a deft wordsmith and compelling, highly entertaining storyteller. Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge (Forge) manages to be charming, funny, original, and suspenseful while tackling the deadly serious, timely topic of international voice phishing cybercrime. Stephen King’s succinct cover blurb, “I absolutely adored this book,” says it all.
Humble Beginnings to a Large Fortune
Phone scammers are no match for Mrs. Loretta Plansky! She is a youthful 71-year-old widow who mourns and misses late husband Norm, her eternal sweetheart. He died of brain cancer shortly after they sold their business and retired to Florida. Despite a hip replacement, she competitively and fiercely plays tennis with a one-handed backhand that disarms her opponents. Norm was her best friend, soul mate and partner in life as well as in a unique business they created together. Neither had started out wealthy and like many young couples at the beginning of their long marriage scrimped to get by. Norm worked for a small Providence, RI engineering firm and Loretta was a paralegal in Newport.
At breakfast on a rainy weekend camping trip with their toddler son, Loretta out-of-the-blue dreamed up an idea for a revolutionary new invention; a knife that could toast bread as it sliced. By the time their second child Nina was born, Plansky Toaster Knife Manufacturing Company was modestly launched with a $10,000 loan from Loretta’s father. The crazy sounding device worked!
Their first sale was an order for 50 knives by a kitchen store in Norway; the next for 5,000 from a chain in Spain after its president bought one in Oslo. They were hands-on owner-operators with Norm in charge of manufacturing/distribution and Loretta marketing/sales. Decades later, they sold the company for millions, gifted undisclosed sums to their children Jack and Nina, and generously donated roughly half, about five million dollars to various charities before selling their Rhode Island home and moving to Florida.
Innocent Request Turns Scam
Ever pragmatic and forward-thinking, Mrs. Plansky sold the beautiful home they had built, downsized and paid cash for an end-unit condo with a view of Little Pine Lake. She moved her ever-opinionated, grumpy wastrel of a 98-year-old father to Arcadia Gardens, an upscale retirement home, and without complaint dutifully paid his $10,000 monthly expenses, which included the extravagance of fine wine deliveries. His tab would soon nearly double in cost as the facility deemed he required extra care. His financial dependency on his daughter was not a concern to him. Although she had made new friends, it was always family first.
The bank of Loretta was open all hours to her son Jack and thrice married/divorced daughter Nina. Neither of them was successful in business or relationships but did present her the greatest gift of grandchildren Emily and Will. Recently Nina and her latest feckless fiancé requested a quarter of a million dollars and Jack asked for $750,000 as an advance on his presumed future inheritance; both for dubious investment opportunities. Her grandchildren were not leeches and she freely granted them generous gifts. Consequently, when in the middle of the night she received a phone call from grandson Will claiming to be in a jam resulting from a DUI desperately requiring $10,000 instantly, she immediately complied.
There was a bad connection and though Will’s voice sounded higher and his phrasing a little peculiar, Mrs. Plansky willingly provided her account number, access information and password to Palm Coast Bank and Trust with links to all of her asset management accounts. Minutes later, her “grandson” called back to thank her and let her know he was “free as a bird” and released from jail. This unusual and unscripted second call left the tiniest trace for the FBI to identify the country of origin.
The transfer was indeed a complete success as her entire life savings of over 3.8 million dollars from every linked account had been drained! Morning dawned and with it the growing certainty she had been defrauded. Meetings with her broker followed by FBI Fraud Unit representatives confirmed the worst possible news: there was no recourse as she had volunteered the information and the monies were permanently gone. The federal agent hinted the crooks might operate out of a remote part of Romania. In their opinion, the funds were unrecoverable and the best hope would be the extremely remote chance they could catch and extradite the crooks. What was she to do?
One-Way Ticket to Meet Scammers and Hackers
If she sold her condo, moved into a modest apartment with her aged father, cancelled her country club membership, clipped coupons and found some sort of work, she just might be able to scrape by. However, plucky Loretta Plansky is unwilling to be anyone’s dupe. Her unconventional creative problem solving abilities and highly developed intuition propel her into action. She informs her family of the dire situation, moves her father from his retirement home into her condo and hires caregivers for him.
Selling her enormous diamond solitaire, she books an open-ended flight to Bucharest, packs a bag, grabs her passport and some maps and takes an Uber to Miami International Airport. In Bucharest, she ignores the admonitions of the American Embassy, hires a stick-shift rental car and drives three hours to the tiny, impoverished village of Alba Gemina.
The excitement mounts and the perilous journey begins as you open the pages of Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge for several hours of pleasurable reading. You will meet the gang of scammers and hackers: Uncle Dragomir, a violent criminal with Russian Mafia ties and his henchmen. English Professor Bogdan is reluctantly dragooned into service along with high school students Dinu and his best friend Romeo.
Dinu is Dragomir’s nephew, an adept student of American English dialect and lover of all things American and his cohort Romeo, a computer genius. Loretta will gain some unexpected help from Max, an investigative journalist.
Fasten your seatbelts for a truly wild and unexpected ride! What a terrific book.
Phone Scams are on the Rise, But so is Awareness
Here is a link to several series featuring senior sleuths.
Aside from the obvious Miss Marple, some of my favorites were written by Nancy Bell, Dorothy Gilman, Rita Lakin, Stuart Palmer, Virginia Rich, Ann B. Ross and a host of others. Let’s hope Spencer Quinn will create a series and continue the adventures begun in Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge.
On a sad note, voice phishing or “vishing”, fraudulent phone calls designed to dupe people into giving money and revealing personal information, is on the rise with the increased use of mobile phones. Victims are more likely to answer these calls as their phones are ever present and robo-calls combined with number-finding technology has made scamming easier. It’s an updated version of a problem nearly as old as telephone service. In 2021, AARP reported 6.9 billion dollars was lost due to cybercrime based on almost 850,000 reports made to the FBI. The bulk of the complaints and losses were from victims aged 50 and over.
The Federal Trade Commission has useful information about how to identify and avoid the wide variety of phone scams.
About Spencer Quinn:
Spencer Quinn is the pen name for Peter Abrahams, the Edgar-winning, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eight Chet and Bernie mystery series, as well as the #1 New York Times bestselling Bowser and Birdie series for middle-grade readers. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife Diana — and dogs Audrey and Pearl. (Photo Credit: Diana Gray)
Publish Date: July 25, 2023
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Author: Spencer Quinn
Page Count: 304 pages
Publisher: Forge Books