I’ve been on a bit of a Lawrence Block kick recently. I’ve come to love the Matthew Scudder series and I like Block’s style of writing, as well as his frequent New York City setting. In reading an interview of Block, he mentioned how many people either liked his burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr series and didn’t like the Scudder ones because the latter is too dark, or didn’t like the former because it’s too light or because it glorifies a criminal.
I figured it was time to try a Rhodenbarr book and I’m glad I did. The results are about what I expected. I didn’t love it but then again, it took me four books to really get hooked into the Matthew Scudder series. This is obviously different from that one. The tone is a bit more lighthearted and while the stakes are high, Bernie doesn’t want to wind up in jail, it never feels as urgent as a Scudder novel can given that people are often getting bumped off in Scudder novels.
In totality, it feels like Block still wants to figure out what to do with these. It’s tough to combine the crime of burglary with a mystery (and it seems like that will be the recurring theme of these). The plot gets a bit too stuffy, especially near the end with an implausible twist.
But this one entertained well enough, a pleasant way to pass the afternoon. I’ll probably try more in the series at some point. I don’t know if I’ll ever love Bernie like I do Scudder but these could be pleasant diversions written by a great writer.