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Uptown Thief

(Justice Hustlers #1)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  230 ratings  ·  62 reviews
In this sexy, heart-stopping tale, one smart, sizzling mami robs the rich and protects the exploited--until one heist too many puts everything at stake. . .

Marisol Rivera barely survived being abused with nowhere to turn. So there's nothing she won't do to keep her Lower East Side women's health clinic open and give disadvantaged women new lives. Running an exclusive esco
ebook, 352 pages
Published July 26th 2016 by Dafina
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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  230 ratings  ·  62 reviews

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Dec 05, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a depiction of urban crime at its grittiest. Marisol Rivera and her bunch of female employees run a women's shelter as cover for their escort *cough* service. The shelter requires periodic infusion of cash which, as it seems, the ladies can get only by breaking into the homes of the new york rich.

Leon writes fluidly and gave us a story that is raw and unapologetic so much so I found myself both fascinated and repulsed by the lifestyle these women lived. Interwoven within their crimcapad
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This book, written by a Bay area notable and featuring an ex-prostitute, now health center for sex workers COO, madame, and high class heist -Robin Hood-esque character (yes, complex) is diverting. I wanted it to be better. It was okay. I did care about the characters, but they were fairly flat - all good, all bad, all - in the end, predictable. But for my needs at that particular moment (take me away from the real world, please) it sufficed.
Heather Young
Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Uptown Thief takes you on a wild ride, but not through the countryside you're expecting, and that's what makes it great.

Marisol is a former sex worker who runs a free clinic for sex workers in Manhattan. But the economy is tight and it's squeezing her fundraising, so she also runs an escort service on the side. Lately, she's gotten into the Robin Hood business, using her small team of escorts to case the homes of millionaires who engage in sex trafficking in Mexico and robbing them in classic he
Abby Fabiaschi
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
You ever read a book in a genre you don't usually read and think, "Damn, I should read those kinds of books more often"? That's what I thought after this debut, only I'm not sure what genre it falls into. The book had a bit of everything-- action, sex, smarts, an underlying point ... I'd describe it as a women's ocean 11, but with more at stake than just money and revenge. It was a much enjoyed fast, fun read.
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably really 3.25 stars since the writing was only okay, but this has so many things going for it - former sex worker sets up women's health clinic for sex workers and other underserved populations, and then spends the whole book hustling (i.e., running heists on asshole millionaires) to make up funding where government and foundation grants fall short, a full cast of characters of color, and some lesbians - that I can't mark it down because the writing was sometimes clunky.
Shanti Menon
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Enjoyed the feminist premise and the Lower East Side setting. I've seen that neighborhood gentrify and was glad to hear about it through these voices. The read would have been even more fun if the writing were a little less clunky and characters weren't reduced to their body types.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is pretty much what I always hoped entertaining fiction about adult women would be. Which illustrates that it can be done. Thank god. Now we need a lot more of it.

Unlike 95% of books, it hits my basic marks, such as:

- truly adult heroine. Her 20s are well behind her. She knows her shit. She has her goals. Now she's in the midst of successfully running things to meet them.

- within a network of women. She's not isolated, but surrounded by a variety of others just as she would be IRL. They ar
Jamie Canaves
A fellow Rioter had recommended this and I’m so glad he did. This is a mashup crime novel and romance. It isn’t a puzzle mystery type book, instead you follow criminals. But not your everyday criminals, these are women who are running a women’s health clinic in NY for underprivileged women. But you need money to keep a clinic open and funding just isn’t enough. So Marisol Rivera creates a down-low escort service that targets CEOs that want to donate to the clinic. Except she’s targeting human ga ...more
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It's the new OITNB. A story of women's hustle, women's relationships, women's worldmaking. And beautifully-realized depictions of messy, dirty, complex grown-up love (straight, queer, erotic, familial) between grown-up men and grown-up women. It cries out for a TV series.

UPTOWN THIEF offers the realest breakdown of sex work economies I've ever encountered in literature, TV or film. It brings to mind Auden on Jane Austen:

Describe the amorous effects of ‘brass’,
Reveal so frankly and with such so
Louise Miller
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Uptown Thief is a fabulously subversive novel that opened up a whole new world of reading for me. Here is a feminist action story, a sex-positive novel about sex workers who are wonderfully drawn, deeply felt characters. It’s a novel about power in all its forms. It weaves a story about sexism, racism and classism into a steamy, thrilling page-turner. You will cheer for our hero Marisol and her partners in crime the whole way through, your pulse will quicken during the caper scenes AND the sex s ...more
Jeff Carnett
Dec 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Don't be totally fooled by the cover. This is a well written book by a talented author. She uses the romance genre to deliver a powerful social message.
Bridget Johannes
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
The dialogue is so cheesy... and not in a fun way, but in a cringeworthy secondhand embarrassment kind of way.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
So I'd never really given the romantic suspense genre a try. Partly because I'm never a fan of guys with guns showing up and kicking off some action sequence in any story, partly because I don't usually enjoy external bad guys in my romance reading, partly because I suspect most of the genre doesn't share my politics. But a friend recommended this series and for all its dark and traumatic moments this book was so exuberant and fun: current & former sex workers making money for a free clinic, sav ...more
Jun 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure, heist
A modern, feminist heist novel with compelling characters and a refreshing point of view. I love the premise of this story and the heists were great. For all the hot sex scenes, the book was weak in the romance department. The chemistry between the main character and the guy she eventually ends up with isn't that strong. Also, the story seems to linger, long after the plot climax, in a way that feels weak. Overall a great story.
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Urban fiction is not a genre I have expertise in, but I am so glad I picked up this book. It was entertaining and gripping from the first page. This crew of sex workers/community organizers take down elite, misogynistic men in this satisfying, fast-paced novel. León's heist novel weaves in the politics of sex work, gentrification, and social work in a nuanced way. I found myself rooting for Marisol, Tyesha, Eva, Kim, Jody, and more in this modern Robin Hood. Beyond the heists, the friendships, s ...more
Pomme de Terre
3.5 stars.

A book in which sex workers are neither objects of pity or disposable bodies, but in fact heroes? Yes, it is possible.

I'm so tempted to put this at four stars because I am so so so behind the idea of this novel: a feminist heist novel about sex workers with a cast of woc underpinned by a clear-eyed understanding of how poverty, misogyny and racism influence their lives. Marisol is amazing in how capably she runs her clinic and thefts as well as sympathetic with her struggle to live wit
Jun 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2018
tl; dr: not for me but that doesn't mean you won't like it!

I wanted and expected to love this book. WOC sex workers pulling heists on riche white dudes and taking care of their own? Yes, please. I hoped for some major catharsis with everything going on in our world right now.

Unfortunately, it didn't do it for me. I was left feeling just MEH. I prefer my novels to have the slowest of a slow burn and that wasn't present with our main couple. I felt the sex scenes were a bit awkward, and didn't lik
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is gold! From the fearless heroine Marisol, to the representation of sex workers, the compassion towards women in abusive situations, the urban Robin Hood story line, the strong female supporting characters, the suspense, and some awesome steamy scenes, this book is deeply multilayered. Let this book take you on a journey, and come out on the other side more educated about important issues. BRILLIANT!
Karen Mahtin
Aug 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Marisol is like a superhero. Such a great read.
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Marisol Rivera is possibly my favourite heroine in all of fiction and there needs to be a sequel already.
Jul 22, 2018 rated it did not like it
I got to page 83 & realized I didn't have to finish reading this. Not my kind of book, characters or subject matter. Not a mystery either (which is what the review that recommended this said). ...more
Lexxi Kitty
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Kensington Books for an honest review.

I read something somewhere, in a review?, in a book description? That said something like ‘Ocean’s 11 with women.’ Do not go into this book thinking that or you will be disappointed.

There’s another book that had that tagline attached to it. It was a Michael Crichton book from long ago, released under the John Lange name. That one is both a lot closer to being ‘Ocean’s 11 with women’ than this book while also
Dec 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Aya de León is having kind of a mini-moment within mystery/crime circles. When the movie Hustlers came out back in September, influencers in the crime fiction world recommended de León’s work as it has thematic similarities to the popular film: underpaid women stuck at dead end sex worker jobs (with the resulting cultural stigma) who develop a side hustle in order to make ends meet. Both side hustles involve soaking rich white men and both the film and de León’s book portray the women as some so ...more
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reviewed on Books Cats Tea

A fabulous modern twist to a classic Robin Hood tale. Strong women from different ethnic backgrounds robbing the rich to care for the poor with an intelligent feminist story.

Marisol Rivera runs a successful health clinic in Manhattan. Like many non-profits that serve the underrepresented and the vulnerable, funding is tough which makes paying the bills even harder. To supplement the clinic's income, Rivera leads a select team of trusted women who run an secret escort se
We decided to read this for my bookclub because we wanted to read more urban fiction. It was delightful! I would almost call it wish-fulfillment expect that all the victories in it are extremely hard-won, they're just also really satisfying! Marisol, the main character, runs a public health clinic that helps sex workers and other women. She also runs a (secret) brothel, where women can take entrepreneurship classes. With women from the clinic/brothel, Marisol also pulls heists on billionaires in ...more
Ann Beej
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
I will be honest. This book was a disappointment to me. I respect Aya de León quite a bit and I have enjoyed her essays and journalism over the years, and when I heard about her novels, I was excited to read them! (I have a long to-read list, so it took me a while.)

Unfortunately, this first installment in the series was just terrible. It's supposed to be a heist novel but the heists are basically just unplanned breaking-and-entering with some magically acquired safe-cracking thrown in. It's ful
Nancy White
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, 2018
This is a revolutionary book written for mainstream audiences. It is radical in ways large - depiction of sex work, queerness, POC folks to the front, gentrification and wealth distribution- and small - condom use, position preferences and boundaries, explicitly checking in with your sexual partners not just to obtain consent but because you care that they are having a good time.

Not only that, the women create a committed and loving family that care for one another and other people, celebrate a
Jun 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, romance, chicklit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: new-york
Someone needs to buy the rights to this series and bring it to television. I feel like this is a job for Issa Rae Presents. Actually, I can see the characters on Insecure all getting really into "Justice Hustlers," the mid-season replacement for "Due North." (Now I really want this to happen. TV gods, hear my prayer.)

I was a little wary of this--romance novels and serialized crime aren't really my genre because I find a lot of them predictable--but the concept won me over. The execution is a lit
Despite the story being very unbelievable, and starting out a bit confusing with way too many characters, I eventually enjoyed this light read. My book club chose this for our local December selection because we wanted something easy. I likely would not have read otherwise.

I like the premise and it was sexy and fun with good writing (women who run heists on rich powerful men and use their stolen money to fund a clinic/safe space for sex workers? A wonderful modern, urban, feminist robin hood id
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