The Burglar Who Counted Spoons

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Some years ago when I traveled the highways and byways of Georgia and Alabama, I listened to books-on-tape.  It filled a void when the radio got tired, and I was quickly drawn into the habit of listening to books.  To hear Old Man and the Sea narrated by Charlton Heston is quite a different thing than reading, or maybe not reading, the Cliff Notes in high school.  It turns out that “literature” doesn’t mean “dud.”

What books-on-tape meant, though, is that I was victim to whatever offerings were made available in the library.  It’s strange, but while the thought of buying a book was no big deal, buying an audiobook was unthinkable.  Thus I became a fan of Beaton and Braun and many other authors I would not have sought out, as well as Lawrence Block, who I might have had I had a friend who might drop a mention. 

My first and fortunate entry to his writing was the first of his books with protagonist Bernie Rhodenbarr, Burglars Can’t be Choosers.  Bernie is a “gentleman” burglar with clear moral boundaries outside of his chosen profession who just so happens to get caught up in related murders.  The first several of these books were exceptional, before Block made the stories frustratingly formulaic.  But still, I listened.  I think I even read one or two of them.  But, when I did, I heard Richard Ferrone’s voice, who so perfectly narrated the audio books with which I had traveled.

After saying some years ago that he was through with Mrs. Rhodenbarr’s little boy, Block returns with his The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, the 11th in the series, almost 10 years from his last. 

Welcome back, Bernie. 

For returning readers, the character is so familiar because we’ve sat in on so many of his conversations.  Bernie tends to talk to his best friend Carolyn at the Bum Rap, and the reader almost feels as if they’re seated at the table.  That said, someone new could easily start with this book, but they might have to be charitable for a time before they warm to him. 

The point is that Bernie may be a burglar, but other than where he might profit, he uses his powers for good, previously to extricate himself and in this case, oddly, to right a wrong (and profit a tad).   The Block trademarks are here, including the New York setting, the familiar cast of characters, the breezy chat, the lighthearted tone, and the final gathering of suspects for the reveal.  And, for the reader in the know, there’s not a character introduced who is a toss-away.  They’re all a part of the bigger picture.  Knowing that makes it more fun to fathom along the way. 

It’s not great literature, folks.  But if anyone likes humorous mysteries that includes current affairs while remaining PG, this is the type of book you’ve been looking to consume a few hours on a lazy Saturday. 

This isn’t the best of the series, but it’s not a misfire either.  If I had my preference, Block would fill in some gaps of Bernie’s backstory, before everything became a pat matter of course.  But, beggars can’t be choosers either.

 4 of 5 STARS

 

 

Worthwhile quotes:

”Every passion is interesting to him who suffers from it.  And one sometimes feels impelled to inflict it on others.”

“When you can’t get a song out of your head, when it’s Muzak and your mind’s the elevator, when it keeps repeating on you like a decimal or a bad burrito, there’s a word for it.  You’ve got what’s called an earworm, and sooner or later it will go away.  But until it does, well, it doesn’t.”

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