The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When the mysterious Mr. Smith hires Bernie Rhodenbarr to steal an early draft of Benjamin Button from a museum, Bernie pulls off the heist and winds up agreeing to steal a silver spoon depicting Button Gwinnett, one of the lesser known signees of the Declaration of Independence. But what does any of that have to do with Helen Osterheimer, a wealthy woman found dead in her apartment?
When your favorite living crime writer needs something done, be it driving a getaway car, hacksawing the limbs off of corpse, or reviewing a soon to be released book, you drop what you're doing and get to it. Thankfully, there was a minimal amount of sawing involved in reading this ARC.
First off, Bernie Rhodenbarr is not my favorite of Lawrence Block's series characters, running a distant third behind Keller and the big dog, Matthew Scudder. However, when this ARC fell into my lap, I decided to give Bernie another shot and was glad I did. I was hooked from the opening scene and devoured the book in two sittings.
The Burglar novels are lighter than the Scudder or Keller books, more like Dorothy Sayers or Rex Stout. This one, the Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, had me out in the snow for a great portion of it. Bernie managed to stay a few steps of everyone, including me. Lawrence Block is some kind of literary magician. When you think you've figured out where he's got the rabbit hidden, you turn around to find he's made the Statue of Liberty disappear while you weren't looking.
Bernie's profession is that of a burglar but he's often called upon to do his share of detecting. As he unravels Smith's identity and who killed Helen Osterheimer, I couldn't help but feel a little like Bernie and Block were taking me to school.
While it's a very entertaining mystery, Block also manages to throw down some serious historical trivia and hold my interest for pages at a time, much like he does in the Keller books when Keller goes off on tangents about stamps. I had no idea who Button Gwinnett was before I started reading and now I'm a little curious to learn more.
The supporting cast of Carolyn and Ray were like visiting old friends I hadn't realized I missed. I thought the various heists were believably done and weren't bogged down with unnecessary details. Like I said earlier, I was in the dark for most of the book, which is what I look for in a mystery.
I guess that's all I have to say. Bernie Rhodenbarr has moved up a few notches in my esteem and I guess I'll be filling in the gaps in my Burglar reading pretty soon. Four easy stars!
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