From Publishers Weekly
You'd think that Block, with more than 50 books to his credit, would run out of ideas, but as this 10th in his Burglar series shows (after 1999's The Burglar in the Rye
), he's as fresh, witty and inventive as ever. The author builds his plot on stupefying coincidences, but not to worryeverything eventually meshes. A friend asks Bernie Rhodenbarr, confirmed New Yorker, used-book dealer and gentleman burglar, to rob a mob-connected plastic surgeon who stole the friend's mistress. He agrees, and cases the doctor's house in Riverdale, the Bronx. But Bernie is restive and, uncharacteristically (because he plans carefully), he breaks into a Manhattan apartment on a whim and almost gets caught, hiding under the bed while a woman is date-raped. Next day a customer is shot near his bookstore, a mysterious émigré couple is murdered, a former Latvian war criminal is reported in New York and Bernie's apartment is ransacked. These crimes seem unrelated in such a large city, but Bernie finds a common thread. In the end, Bernie assembles 22 people (including lawmen) in the surgeon's living room and, Charlie Chan style, explains each participant's role and, where appropriate, crime. Lesser hands would not bring off this breathtaking performance, but in Block's it's seamless and hilarious. Quirky characters like Bernie's pals Carolyn Kaiser, the dog groomer, and cop Ray Kirschmann; an insider's love of New York; and a slew of wonderful puns add to the fun.
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Bernie is back! To devoted followers of genre stalwart Block's comic series starring Bernie Rhodenbarr, the dry-witted bookseller-thief, a new adventure reads like a treasured stand-up routine, with a few details altered. Sure, it's formula, but that's the fun. We know that when Bernie breaks into someone's home, he will either find a dead body or be trapped under the bed while something bad happens above him. We wait for it, like comedy fans waiting for a familiar punch line. This time Bernie's under the bed, and to make matters worse, he's spotted on a security camera outside the building, making him a suspect in a murder-robbery that took place next door. Then there's the problem of the Black Scourge of Riga, and don't forget the fat man who paid $1,300 dollars for a $12 copy of Conrad's Secret Agent
. There's more, of course, and none of it makes much sense, either to Bernie or his pal Carolyn, who offers her usual invaluable counsel while bemoaning the difficulties of finding a girlfriend online. But not to worry, by the last chapter, Bernie gets to say his favorite line, the one we wait for the longest: "I suppose you're all wondering why I summoned you here . . ." No, Bernie, I know full well: to enjoy superb light entertainment, to cackle at your devilish wit, and to relish the glee with which your creator constructs his confoundingly clever, coincidence-cluttered plots. Bill OttCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved