RogerBW's Blog

The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling, Lawrence Block 09 August 2014

Bernard Rhodenbarr, the closest New York in the 1970s can get to a gentleman burglar, is back for his third mystery book appearance. This is the one where the formula changes a bit.

Bernie is now running a second-hand and antiquarian bookship, and burgling only as necessary to pay the bills. He's also acquired a real friend, Carolyn Kaiser, a dog groomer who's also an out lesbian. Actually I can see this working; as she's the first non-elderly woman in this series whom Bernie hasn't tried to bed, he's probably enjoying the novelty of actually talking with a female person.

That's as far as the change in formula goes, though: as before, as a result of his burglary, Bernie finds himself framed for murder, and has to prove that he didn't do it. Really, if formula offends you, stay away; in terms of plot, these books are far more similar to each other even than the near-endless Doc Savage series.

The object of burglary is an apocryphal poem by Kipling, carefully and (mostly) plausibly set up, but more interesting to me is that Bernie doesn't get laid this time round; OK, it's probably only because there aren't any other significant female characters, but the sex has been a distraction in previous volumes and this one doesn't suffer by its absence.

I don't find this series laugh-out-loud funny the way many people seem to, but I do enjoy them and particularly appreciate, as a change of pace, the lack of fight scenes. I think it would be an error to read them close together, or for the plot; by all accounts, all these books follow the same pattern.

Followed by The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza.

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