The Banks family has a long criminal history in the city of Chicago. From Clara and her husband Melvin in the 70’s & 80’s, to her daughter Cora in the 90’s and 00’s, and her daughter Celia in the present day, they’ve all made money by being smart about who they steal from and never getting greedy. The thing is that Clara and Cora were actual thieves specializing in the art of breaking and entering while Celia practices the legitimate kind of thievery: Working as an investment banker. However, when Celia is passed over for the position of partner at her firm, after busting her ass off for over a year, she finds herself ready to enter the family business proper after learning about the firm’s richest client. Dirk Johnson is a secretive eccentric sitting on a fortune in gold bullion and bitcoin and three generations of African American women are about to take him for all he’s worth.
If it doesn’t sound like Mr. Johnson deserves that fate, don’t worry. He’s a certified asshole who has ties to the man responsible for the death of Melvin Banks. The addition of a personal element to this heist story should make it all that more compelling, but “The Banks” never comes off as more than a good idea for a story. While the characters have interesting histories, they simply walk through the story hitting their expected plot points and making familiar arguments with each other. The storytelling from writer Roxanne Gay and Ming Doyle is certainly functional, but it’s completely lacking in style and energy. A book about three generations of African American women sticking it to a terrible white guy shouldn’t be this dull or predictable. There’s a great story to be told with this setup, but “The Banks” certainly isn’t it.