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Burglars Can't Be Choosers (original 1977; edition 2004)

by Lawrence Block

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7261212,927 (3.69)38
Member:wjohnston
Title:Burglars Can't Be Choosers
Authors:Lawrence Block
Info:HarperTorch (2004), Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, mystery, crime, 2012, no_longer_owned

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Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Lawrence Block (1977)

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
A fun lighthearted mystery with a little edge. This is the first book in Lawrence Block's Burglar series which feature the criminal activities and subsequent misadventures of gentleman burglar Bernard G. Rhodenbarr - Bernie the Burglar.

It all starts when Bernie's hired by an odd little man he doesn't know - but who knows him - to retrieve an item from someone's apartment while they aren't home. Simple enough task for someone with Bernie's skills. Except when the police catch him in the act... except when a dead body then shows up in the next room... except when Bernie freaks out and makes a runs for it!

After the initial setup the story coasts at a pace that verges on plodding, for a chapter or so there's not a lot happening other than Bernie going over everything that has led him to be a fugitive and trying to piece together a clue. Once the first clue is discovered the story starts moving again and keeps a fairly steady pace. The ending struggles a little, the plot is somewhat convoluted and the whole thing teeters on the edge of implausibility (a common trait among several stories in the burglar series) but it's all great fun.

In typical Block fashion the author sprinkles a few obvious - and some not so obvious - clues here and there giving the reader the impression of being oh-so-clever because they already know exactly where the story is going and then, again in typical Block fashion, he turns it on its head and you realize you've been gobbling up the trail of bread crumbs he's left for you and never focused on the inconsequential things that may or may not have been the real clues (some are, some aren't) and it's all incredibly satisfying because the only thing greater than outsmarting a great mystery writer is falling so completely into his web that you don't even know you're on the wrong track until it's too late.

If you are only familiar with Lawrence Block's more famous character Private Detective Matthew Scudder then you might be in for a big surprise because the Burglar series has always been much more lighthearted. It's full of the kind of puns, laughs, wise cracks and occasional silliness that you would never find in a Scudder novel.

There is some violence and sexual content, most all of it is more implied than explicit and the language does include a few 4-letter words but it falls well within the PG-13 range. I would recommend this to just about anyone who likes mysteries, and detective novels with the possible exception of those who prefer them hard-boiled and no nonsense. ( )
2 vote Mike-L | Apr 8, 2013 |
Bernie is a likeable rogue, although, he has the worst luck. There's always a dead body laying around during his break-ins. This time he has a client asking him to steal a blue leather box for $5000 from an antique roll-top desk. The police catch him in the act and discover a dead man in the next room. Bernie gets away, hides out, and solves the case with the help of a very friendly new girlfriend. ( )
1 vote Kathy89 | Jun 16, 2012 |
http://www.cozylittlebookjournal.com/2006/06/beggars-cant-be-choosers-bernie.htm...

This was the first Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery, written the year I was born. Boy, both the character and the author have really evolved since then! It's good, but it's full of popular 1970's words, like "mufti." At least I assume that's a '70's word. Maybe Block just likes to be obscure. Hmm...that does sound like him.

Overall it was good. I like the series better with his trusty girl Friday and used book store. He's more of a gentleman cat burglar in the later books, like the senior citizen cat burglar on The Simpsons (which is secretly exactly how I picture Bernie). ( )
  CozyBookJournal | Apr 13, 2012 |
A light-hearted mystery where the sleuth is also a burglar. That's the scenario for this book (and rest of the series I believe). Bernie Rhodenbarr is a thief and doesn't try to justify his actions. It's not that he goes around advertising his profession but he's not looking for a new one. He makes a good living and enjoys what he does and doesn't have to work too often either so why should he? When he's offered $5000 for what sounds like an easy job he overcomes some initial misgivings and accepts. He breaks into the apartment but can't find the item he's been asked to collect where he was told it would be and before he can look around for it he's interrupted by the arrival of two cops on the scene. Negotiations for the cops to look the other way have been pretty much concluded when one of the boys in blue discovers a dead body which complicates matters somewhat.

Managing to flee the scene and find a bolt-hole to hide up in Bernie tries to find out if he was set up on the job or if his luck was particularly bad that night. He's helped out by a young lady who discovered his hiding place when she came in to water the plants. Can they discover the real murderer before Bernie gets caught?

This is a really quick read. Fast-paced without much superfluous action. It's a fun escapade but the characters aren't hugely developed but enjoyable nonetheless. ( )
1 vote AHS-Wolfy | Jul 15, 2011 |
Bernie Rhodenbar, professional burglar gets framed for murder while in the midst attempting to steal a special item he was requested to steal. He becomes involved in solving the murder in order to clear his "good name".
This is a interesting series, but not sure if I like it yet or not. It seems to take place a million years ago, and doesn't feel like the 1970's. The story is first person narrated and Bernie is somewhat of a pig, but clever at times. His thoughts on women is pretty dated. I have to try one more in the series to get the feel for it. I like premise of the series... a professional burglar. ( )
2 vote FMRox | May 31, 2010 |
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A handful of minutes after nine I hoisted my Bloomingdale's shopping bag and moved out of a doorway and into step with a tall blond fellow with a faintly equine cast to his face.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060582553, Mass Market Paperback)

The latest in the Bernie Rhodenbarr series by multiple-award winner Block has Bernie underestimating the difficulty of breaking into a posh East Side apartment to steal a blue leather-covered box. No box, dead body, bum murder rap. Not so easy. The New York Times Book Review has called the Rhodenbarr books, "A witty series. Bernie is incorrigibly adorable. Between his inquiring mind and his sticky fingers, Bernie is the ideal sleuth."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:32 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Now, we all know Bernie's the type of guy who likes to work alone. He finds the profits are higher and the risks a lot lower. But in Burglars Can't Be Choosers, Bernie finds that while he's no beggar, he's not above taking on a rare work-for-hire. It's simple, really. All he has to do is break into a posh East Side apartment, grab a blue leather-covered box, deliver it to his mysterious employer, and pocket a nice, easy fee. Well, nothing's ever that easy. No sooner is Bernie inside the apartment when things start to go wrong. Things like ... no blue box. Things like ... the police, led by his old nemesis, detective Ray Kirschmann. Things like ... the dead body in the bedroom. Things like ... being accused of murder.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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