RogerBW's Blog

The Burglar in the Closet, Lawrence Block 10 July 2014

Bernard Rhodenbarr, the closest New York in the 1970s can get to a gentleman burglar, is back for his second book appearance, and the formula sets in: while our hero the burglar is hiding from his victim who's come home unexpectedly, she gets murdered.

This was more enjoyable for me than Burglars Can't Be Choosers; there's still the same sense of sentimentally gliding past corruption, but Rhodenbarr manifests more of a sense of the ridiculous than the usual tough guys can manage.

The writing's rather better too, with less of a sense of urgency about it; this is a narrator who's more used to his voice, who can relax and relax into telling the story rather than giving us all his background details. Burglar, good guy, doesn't steal from his neighbours, right, let's get on with it.

The plot is a bit more solid, requiring rather less coincidence than before (the main one being that Rhodenbarr is on the spot when the murder happens, and that's the basic conceit of the series anyway). There's plenty of tawdry sex, not in excessive detail, and indeed a window into the barfly pickup culture of the era: but more importantly it's relevant to the plot.

Block was already well into his career as a writer when he started this series, but he improved sharply in all respects for this book.

Followed by The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling.

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