A philosophical yet practical gentleman, Bernie Rhodenbarr possesses many admirable qualities: charm, intelligence, sparkling wit, and unwavering loyalty. Of course, he also has this special talent and a taste for life's finer things. So he's more than willing to perform some vengeful larceny for a friend -- ripping off a smarmy, particularly deserving plastic surgeon -- for fun and a very tidy profit.
But during a practice run at another address, Bernie's forced to hide under a bed when the lady of the house returns unexpectedly with the worst kind of blind date in tow. In no time, Bernie's up to his burgling neck in big trouble. Again. And this time it includes his arrest, no less than four murders, and more outrageous coincidences than any self-preserving felon should ever be required to tie together.
You'd think that Block, with more than 50 books to his credit, would run out of ideas, but as this 10th in his Burglar series shows (after 1999's The Burglar in the Rye), he's as fresh, witty and inventive as ever. The author builds his plot on stupefying coincidences, but not to worry everything eventually meshes. A friend asks Bernie Rhodenbarr, confirmed New Yorker, used-book dealer and gentleman burglar, to rob a mob-connected plastic surgeon who stole the friend's mistress. He agrees, and cases the doctor's house in Riverdale, the Bronx. But Bernie is restive and, uncharacteristically (because he plans carefully), he breaks into a Manhattan apartment on a whim and almost gets caught, hiding under the bed while a woman is date-raped. Next day a customer is shot near his bookstore, a mysterious migr couple is murdered, a former Latvian war criminal is reported in New York and Bernie's apartment is ransacked. These crimes seem unrelated in such a large city, but Bernie finds a common thread. In the end, Bernie assembles 22 people (including lawmen) in the surgeon's living room and, Charlie Chan style, explains each participant's role and, where appropriate, crime. Lesser hands would not bring off this breathtaking performance, but in Block's it's seamless and hilarious. Quirky characters like Bernie's pals Carolyn Kaiser, the dog groomer, and cop Ray Kirschmann; an insider's love of New York; and a slew of wonderful puns add to the fun.