This rollicking tale of an aging robber who wants to blow up a reservoir “will keep readers laughing” (Publishers Weekly).
In his day, Tom was a hard man. He came up with Dillinger in the 1930s, and pulled a lot of high-profile jobs before the state put him away. They meant it to be for good, but after twenty-three years the prisons are too crowded for seventy-year-old bank robbers, and so they let the old man go. Finally free, he heads straight for John Dortmunder’s house. Long ago, Tom buried $700,000, and now he needs help digging it up. While he was inside, the government dammed a nearby river, creating a reservoir and putting fifty feet of water on top of his money. He wants to blow the dam, drown the villagers, and move to Acapulco. If Dortmunder wants a clean conscience to go along with his share, he needs to find a nice way to get the money before Tom’s nasty instincts get the best of both of them.
Westlake here brings back decent, smart and unlucky John Dortmunder for a seventh adventure. After a typically unrewarding night of attempted burglary, Dortmunder comes home to find ex-cellmate Tom Jimson ensconced in the living room. Jimson, given a 70th-birthday release from an overcrowded state prison, is as calmly venal and vicious as ever as he asks Dortmunder's help in reclaiming a $700,000 stash from an old robbery. The loot was buried in an upstate New York town that was subsequently flooded to become part of New York City's reservoir system. Jimson's plan to blow up the reservoir dam will doom nearby towns, so Dortmunder must concoct a more humane solution. A motley cast turning through a dizzying variety of plot twists will keep readers laughing. Most risible is the perfectly sensible bewilderment of Westlake's Runyonesque New Yorkers at life upstate: ``If we stay here much longer, we'll start buying one another birthday cards.'' Vintage Westlake.