cover image The Con Queen of Hollywood: The Hunt for an Evil Genius

The Con Queen of Hollywood: The Hunt for an Evil Genius

Scott C. Johnson. Harper, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-303693-2

Journalist Johnson pieces together a thrilling true crime narrative from interviews with victims and investigators of the titular Con Queen, an Indonesian man born Hargobind Tahilramanis who from about 2015 to 2020 impersonated studio executives, talent agents, and other Hollywood A-listers to manipulate film industry gig workers. Harnessing his innate acting skills, Tahilramanis coerced his victims, who included screenwriters, actors, and makeup artists, into traveling to Jakarta on their own dimes, dangling work that never materialized—once they’d arrived and paid for luxury transportation services (with promises of reimbursement), Tahilramanis would abruptly inform them their projects were canceled and leave them stranded. He fleeced some targets for cash, but Johnson contends that Tahilramanis mainly reveled in the emotional manipulation of his schemes, watching people’s hopes inflate only to pop them like balloons. On the back of work by a private investigator, whom Johnson interviewed, the FBI arrested Tahilramanis in late 2020, and he’s currently awaiting trial. Even when his tale tips toward the unbelievable, Johnson makes it clear he’s done his homework. This portrait of one of the most creative criminal minds of the last decade is a jaw-dropping must-read. Agent: Will Lippincott, Aevitas Creative. (June)