4 stars out of 5
It's no secret that I read a lot of books (on my Kindle Fire, thank you very much - I think the only books with real pages I've read in the past eight years or so had Harry Potter in the title). It's also no secret that I love a good bargain. And when those two passions come together, well, I'm a happy woman.
In this case, make that deliriously happy. You see, I fell in love with the Lawrence Block series featuring Manhattan bookstore owner and part-time burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr from the very first; they're funny, a delight to read and offer a wonderful respite in between heavier tomes (another series I love and turn to when I'm tired of blood and guts, BTW, is Spencer Quin's Chet and Bernie series).
But with Block's series, there's been a teeny problem; I've now read them all. In fact, I finished The Burglar on the Prowl, written in 2005, this past August (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1015328840). On no, said I, whatever shall I do for comic relief now?
And then to my wondering eyes came a list of books on sale, as it turned out, for just one day. And would you believe that list contained the most recent, and new-to-me Rhodenbarr Book No. 11? And at just $1.99, no less? Needless to say, it was mine as fast as I could i-click it to my Kindle (for the record, it's priced at $3.99 as I write this). For a fleeting moment, I vowed to put it aside until I'd finished a book or two that messed with my head - but alas (or happily, in this case), I didn't listen to my inner voice, opened it up and got right down to it.
And while I know I'll be kicking myself later when I'm in need of something breezy, I'm too delighted to have found (and enjoyed) this one that for now, I'll worry about tomorrow, well, tomorrow.
I will say, though, that although this one is very good, it's not quite the Bernie Rhodenbarr of old. The standard formula - Bernie breaks into someone's home or apartment to steal something, finds a dead body (or one turns up shortly thereafter) and Bernie gets accused of the murder, usually by his nemesis, NYPD officer Ray Kirschbaum, really doesn't happen here. Oh yes, there is a body - that of a wealthy elderly widow who returns home early from a Metropolitan Opera concert and collapses after seeing what apparently was a robbery. But Bernie was nowhere near the place; instead, he was busy breaking in elsewhere, to steal an object for a client who has a button fetish and is willing to shell out big bucks to add to his collection.
Also in a bit of a plot twist, rather than being somewhat at odds, Bernie and Officer Ray actually team up to solve the widow's murder - culminating, as usual, with a gathering of all the suspects (and Bernie's pet-groomer lesbian sidekick, Carolyn) at the bookstore, where the culprit will be revealed.
As one reviewer pointed out, it's not known whether Bernie and friends will make more appearances between pages - Block self-published this one and
apparently isn't talking. I do know, however, that my fingers are crossed. I've got a big list of heavy-duty thrillers vying for my attention, and I'll be needing a respite soon.
The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons by Lawrence Block (Amazon Digital Services Inc., December 2013); 250 pp.