Hard Case Crime continues to resurrect Block’s early work, often written pseudonymously, from the 1950s and early ’60s. Gleefully mixing soft-core pornography with a thriller plot, Block churned out numerous of these bound-for-the-drugstore-paperback-rack quickies as he was gaining his sea legs for the more mature work that would come later. This one makes the most of its seedy border-town setting, jumping between El Paso and Juarez, as the paths of a gambler, divorcée, hitchhiker, stripper, and psycho killer come together in an inevitable bloodbath—but not before a series of steamy, yet surprisingly stylish, couplings (“There was a beginning, bittersweet and almost painful. There was a middle, fast and furious, a scherzo movement in a symphony of fire. And there was an ending, gasping, spent, two bodies washed up on a lonely, barren beach.”) Who knew what lurked on those paperback racks, nestled beside the sundries, awaiting the hungry eyes of surreptitious readers? And, yet, along with the titillation, Block’s inimitable craftsmanship shines through, along with flashes of his signature wit.
— Bill Ott
In The Midst Of Death and Eight Million Ways to Die are both great examples of the jagged character arc Matthew Scudder travels in this series. Block realizes that even when you take that big step in deciding to fight your demons, the demons will often fight back. I believe these books argue that in this corrupt world it’s the fragile, broken, and discarded souls that need saving the most.
But, I am a person. And I have a child who will someday search the Internet for posts on his mother and reviews of her work. And that child will see people’s posts that make threats on my life for writing a book.
Not always politically correct, it’s still great fun — a not-to-be missed tale by a prolific, exceptionally talented author.
Some people have waited ten long years for Lawrence Block to return to the world of Bernie Rhodenbarr. It hasn’t been that long for me since I only started reading the Bernie books a few years ago and in fact still have a handful in the series that I haven’t read. But my reaction to any new Block book is the same: an unqualified excitement for what the author is going to do this time.
Block fans who feared the Bernie Rhodenbarr series was finished will rejoice to see that the bookseller-thief lives to steal again! All the usual suspects are back—Bernie; his lesbian sidekick, Carolyn; and his nemesis/friend, NYPD cop Ray Kirschbaum—and all are in fine fettle. The plot wanders a bit—from a Fitzgerald manuscript through a dead dowager and on to a whole bunch of rare buttons—but if it’s the charismatic Bernie doing the wandering (and peppering his peregrinations with puns of the biblio variety), who really cares? Certainly not anyone who has made Bernie’s acquaintance in any of his 10 previous adventures. And, besides, if the multistranded plot seems to be unraveling along the way, it makes the signature finale (borrowed, of course, from Nero Wolfe), when Bernie gathers all the suspects at his bookstore and reveals who dun what, all the more satisfying. — Bill Ott
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Block keeps the story light and fun, with plenty of literary references for readers, be it about the current world of bookstores and publishing, or Block making it very clear that even though Bernie might be helping out the police, he will never go fully legit like other characters in the past. It seems Bernie has gone the route of other literary characters: While the world might change around him, he will stay as a young ageless man who always can be found at his bookstore, with his friends there to help him.
Warning: This review contains minor spoilers
Picking up any of Mr. Block’s series books always feels to me like catching up with an old friend, but this is even more true with Bernie than the others, since he is the first of Mr. Block’s characters that I met. Mr. Block wrote this book after announcing his retirement, and has now declared that it seems he doesn’t do very well at being retired. I, as I am sure many other readers are, am delighted at this, and I hope it means more books (and more Bernie books) in future.
Bernie is still a lovable rogue. As with his more modern analog, Keller, the hit man, readers have little trouble rooting for a career criminal as he plies his illicit trade. Block is an engaging writer, effortlessly carrying readers along with him as he puts his characters through their paces. He can even perform info dumps with a wink and a nod that make them more tolerable than normal. Better still, once Bernie explains what happened in the burgled apartment, many of the subtle clues he left early in the book make sense.
Proving that Bernie is for younger readers too, THE BURGLAR WHO COUNTED THE SPOONS is on YA Yeah Yeah’s list of Best Adult Books!
The return of Lawrence Block’s wonderful burglar, Bernie Rhodenbarr, 9 years after the tenth novel in the series, was my most-anticipated book release for an awfully long time. It is an absolute pleasure to report that the character has lost none of his charm, Block’s writing is as superb as ever, and the plot is as ingenious as in any of the previous 10. I read this in one sitting within 24 hours of it being released – and that was on Christmas Day!
There’s also a terrific review on the site:
A few years ago, I wasn’t expecting to ever read another Rhodenbarr book – at least not for the first time – but I really hope that this won’t be the final time that he utters that classic line of his. Hugely recommended.