June 07, 2007

BOOKS: What's So Funny?, Donald E. Westlake (2007)

13th in the John Dortmunder series of comic crime novels.

This time, Dortmunder is approached by an ex-cop who wants him to steal a chess set. Sounds easy enough, but the pieces are 4 inches high and made of solid gold; the set is too heavy for one (or even two) to carry, and it's located in a very secure underground bank vault. But not stealing the chess set isn't really an option, as the cop has some incriminating photos of an earlier Dortmunder heist.

Dortmunder's usual gang of associates is on hand, and it's always a pleasure to spend time with them. And as usual, Westlake's given us some marvelous new supporting characters to fill out the story -- ex-cop Johnny Eppick; his employer, the very elderly Mr. Hemlow, who wants that chess set; the imperious Livia Northwood Wheeler, its current owner -- and a plot with a terrific surprise twist every few chapters.

If you're a regular Dortmunder reader, you know precisely what to expect, and you won't be disappointed by this installment in the series. If you haven't read any of the Dortmunder books before, give them a shot; I'm particularly fond of The Hot Rock (the first in the series) and Drowned Hopes, but they're all good.

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