Many plots are like gravel pits, full of harsh points that don't fit together very well. Why? I don't know. Perhaps the authors just write without having the end in mind. Or perhaps some authors like messy, pointless plots. Every once in awhile I have the pleasure of reading a book where all of the elements work smoothly together taking me effortlessly and comfortably to unexpected and interesting places. Watch Your Back! is one of those books.
But that's not why you read Dortmunder novels. You want some laughs, some irony, work play, and some straightforward comedy. Watch Your Back! has the expected quota along those lines. Any Dortmunder story that begins with the regulars at the OJ Bar & Grill is bound to have a humorous tone throughout.
The book's theme is about what happens to people when they take on new roles in new places. Everyone is affected, but some change . . . and improve . . . while others stay the same.
As the book opens, Dortmunder and his gang of irregulars are without a scheme. But Arnie Albright, New York's most obnoxious but best paying fence, soon offers one.
It turns out that Arnie's family finally found him to be too obnoxious to stand and insisted he take a trip to Club Med in the Caribbean. While there, Arnie had met the wealthy and obnoxious (in a different way) Preston Fareweather (nominally a New Yorker but on the lam from the talons of his four ex-wives who are legally ganging up on him). Arnie learned that Fareweather has a penthouse in Manhattan full of treasures which he never visits and will probably never visit again. What could be a better set up?
When the gang gets together to plan the caper, there's a problem. The back room at the OJ Bar & Grill is off limits and Rollo, the bartender, warns Dortmunder off. Two creeps in a booth seem to be connected to the problem. Dortmunder tries holding his meeting at home and future meetings in the backroom of another bar, but it's not the same. So he decides to find out what's going on at the OJ Bar & Grill. What he learns sets him into unaccustomed action.
Meanwhile, we get to find out why Fareweather is so obnoxious and become acquainted with a young crook-in-training, Judson Blint, who wants to join the gang.
Before the story is over, the characters have even more surprises than you do as the reader. You come out ahead, though, because their problems become the source of your laughter.
Pick your spot and timing carefully!