by Lawrence Block
The Burglar on the Prowl
William Morrow, March, 2004.
Hardcover, 304 pages.
After his last novel, Small Town, a hard-hitting literary post-9/11 novel which raised a few eyebrows because of its raunchy sex scenes, diehard fans of gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr were beginning to despair. Would they ever see another of the witty, lighthearted books which take most of the conventions of the cozy and twist them around into something that's simply irresistible? Mercifully, the long drought of Bernie books is over (the last was 1999's The Burglar in the Rye). In his latest caper, Bernie is asked by an old friend to burgle the home of a sleazy plastic surgeon who stole the old friend's mistress. The surgeon cheats on his income tax and has lots of unreported cash in his safe. The job is an easy one, but Bernie can't resist one more heist on the way home. He ends up unwittingly trapped in a woman's apartment when she comes home early and witnesses something that he really wishes he hadn't seen, which (naturally) ends up involving Bernie in the young woman's life. Next a mysterious foreigner buys a copy of Joseph Conrad's Secret Agent for $1,300 (it's worth about $12) then gets himself shot outside Bernie's bookstore. So, what do all these threads have in common? It is only when Bernie invites everyone even remotely involved in these happenings to a denouement at the home of the plastic surgeon (a la Hercule Poirot) that we find out the solution to the various mysteries.
Lawrence Block is one of those writers who must wake up every morning with ideas simply overflowing. No one does either a caper comedy or a mystery story quite like he does. Coincidence piles upon coincidence and subplot intertwines with subplot until you think that he'll never, never in a million years pull this one off. But he does, of course, with considerable panache. Let's just hope that it's not another five years we have to wait for the next installment in this perfectly executed, witty and delightful series.
--Claire E. White
The Burglar on the Prowl is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the March-April, 2004 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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