From Publishers Weekly
In Westlake's diverting 13th John Dortmunder novel (after 2004's Watch Your Back!
), the hapless crook gets blackmailed into trying to pull off an impossible heist—stealing a gold chess set originally intended as a gift for the last czar of Russia, but picked up by some U.S. soldiers who were part of an anti-Soviet expeditionary force in 1919–1920 and now kept secure in a midtown Manhattan basement vault while various parties dispute its ownership. Dortmunder makes little progress in the book's first half, until he figures out a way to prompt an inquiry that leads to the chess set's being transported downtown—to a location that proves far from secure. As usual, Westlake provides amusing, at times dim-witted dialogue, particularly among the regulars at O.J.'s Bar & Grill on Amsterdam Avenue, and a cast of appealing if often inept cops and robbers. Not every loose end may be tied up, but the ironic resolution will leave both series fans and newcomers satisfied. (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* Perennially star-crossed thief John Dortmunder is blackmailed by Johnny Eppick, a retired New York City cop. After careful study, Eppick has concluded that Dortmunder is the finest thief not already in jail. So, unless Dortmunder steals an 800-pound gold-and-jewel-encrusted chess set intended for Russia's last czar, he's off to prison again. But the job, in Dortmunder's very professional opinion, is impossible. The chess set is in the basement vault of a Manhattan bank building, and it's been there--safe--for 60 years. Between a rock and a hard place, Dortmunder is even more hangdog and dour than usual, and that translates to especially fertile ground for the fourteenth caper-gone-wrong novel in this delightful series. Fans of the fatalistic crook will be happy to see Dortmunder's quirky crew back again and will revel in their pre-Copernican view of a Manhattan-based solar system. Readers new to the Dortmunder series will simply laugh, then head to the library for more. Westlake is a national literary treasure, and his latest effort only enhances his value. Neocon pundit William Kristol recently wrote that Westlake deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature. The neocons haven't been right about much lately, but Kristol just may be on to something this time. Thomas GaughanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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