by Lawrence Block
Bernie Rhodenbarr, a dapper and skilled burglar with a taste for fine things and no propensity for violence, is found by the police in a Manhattan apartment which is not his own, with the legal occupant in the next room bludgeoned to death. He flees the scene and hides out in a friend’s building, where he meets a suspiciously helpful girl who urges him to find the real killer. Tracking down the man who apparently framed him, Bernie gets caught up in a scheme involving blackmail, kinky sex, and lots of money.
This is Lawrence’s more light-hearted series, the flip side of Matt Scudder’s gritty rough justice, and it’s an enjoyable “noir lite” leavened with wit and humor, courtesy of Bernie’s wry, self-effacing narration. The mystery is clever, and although one of the twists requires a rather far-fetched coincidence (of all the apartment buildings in all of New York, she had to walk into mine…), but the solution to the main whodunit was a pleasant surprise. Bernie is a sympathetic character because he’s intelligent and benevolently self-serving, so I’m not surprised Block went on to write a number of sequels.
[followed by The Burglar In the Closet]