Saturday 17 September 2022



Synopsis/blurb …

Bookseller, thief – Bernie Rhodenbarr can’t resist the lure of a long lost Kipling poem, even if it locked inside a millionaire’s high security library. So Bernie goes browsing and sure enough he liberates the object in question … but also finds a dead redhead and is caught with the proverbial smoking gun by those boys in blue, who are ready to book Bernie for Murder One!

Another day, another Bernie burglary and another Block curveball that sees Bernie minus the loot and coming to after being slipped a mickey. He has a gun in his hand, a dead dame opposite him and the cops are kicking down the door.

Bernie and lesbian friend Carolyn must get to the bottom of the mystery while dodging cops and an assortment of miscreants and their henchman seeking a Kipling book, of which there is only one known copy.

New York, a bookstore and Bernie a bookstore owner, an unsuccessful shoplifter who pays, a friendship, a job, an initially successful caper, a rude awakening, a death, an escape, a hideout, more amateur sleuthing, a phone that doesn’t stop ringing, a jealous girlfriend, a car that keeps getting stolen, a wealthy Maharajah, a Sikh heavy, a book dealer gone AWOL, some tiresome poetry, a handy Polaroid camera, a few more B&Es, and a familiar cop willing to help as long as his palm gets greased.

Good clean fun. I like the dynamics of Bernie’s friendship with Carolyn. I liked her willingness to break the law to help Bernie. I enjoyed the denouement when Bernie has the cast of possible murderers all assembled at his bookstore.

I’m not that familiar with Rudyard Kipling’s work. I’m intrigued enough to see if the scarce book that causes Bernie’s problems here – The Deliverance of Fort Bucklow - exists or is a figment of Lawrence Block’s imagination. I did also like the references to Richard Stark’s Parker capers throughout this one. (Another series I ought to get reacquainted with.)

Roll on #4 in the series. 

4 from 5

Burglars Can’t Be Choosers and The Burglar in the Closet were previously enjoyed.

Read – July, 2022

Published – 1979

Page count – 208

Source – purchased copy

Format – Paperback


  1. I think Bernie's a great character, Col. And he does get into all sorts of situations, doesn't he? Block handles that really well, too, so that it doesn't push disbelief too far. And thanks for mentioning Carolyn; I like her character. Can't say I'm a fan of Kipling, if I'm being honest, but I can see how a rare book like that would cause quite a stir.

    1. Margot, agreed on all fronts. I kind of wish I had discovered and got into this series earlier, but then I wouldn't be enjoying them now I suppose.