Every so often, you come across a book in which you know from the very first page that the story within is going to be a pure joy to experience. The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, the new Bernie Rhodenbarr novel by Lawrence Block, is just such a novel. Readers will know that they are in the hands of a master after just a few sentences and what follows is delightful, thoughtful, and thoroughly enjoyable.
The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons is the eleventh novel to feature burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr; and he remains as ever, the most gentlemanly of criminals. By day, he sells books from his independent bookstore – Barnegat Books – while occasionally, the evenings will find him sneaking into secure locations to steal precious items. It is because of the well-rounded character that Lawrence Block has created that readers are able to remain on Bernie’s side even when he is breaking the law.
Block has also surrounded Bernie with his typical batch of eccentric sidekicks. There is Carolyn Kaiser – Bernie’s best friend and lesbian wingman, with whom he eats lunch every day. And don’t forget the bookstore cat, Raffles – a mascot and pet only a true cat-lover could cherish. Even Ray Kirschmann – detective and “friend” of Bernie’s – makes his usual appearance as is so common in the Burglar novels.
Without going into too much detail, the plot of the novel involves Bernie helping Ray to determine what happened to a New York socialite on the night she was found dead in her apartment. At the same time, Bernie is also performing some side burglary jobs for a mysterious man who stopped in at the bookstore – a man with more than a passing obsession with a tiny collectible item. As if these two activities were not enough to keep him busy, Bernie becomes enamored of a new lady-friend and must also deal with a customer who seems ticked off that every time he/she comes to the bookshop, it is closed.
Wrapped up within all of this, is Lawrence Block’s signature wit and erudition. Block often has fun with the language and loves to throw out words that are not the most commonplace. Brief discussion points throughout the novel are like a hit-list of timely topics for debate: Politics, gay marriage, indie shopping and foodie culture are just a sampling of the types of things Block addresses within his charming story. By the time the reader is finished with The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, they are bound to feel like they have learned something, but Block manages to do so without seeming pedantic.
Without a doubt, Lawrence Block is a living legend in the crime fiction field. He is able to write successfully across styles, but the comedic tone of the Burglar books is certainly one at which he excels. The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons is his gift to readers everywhere as we close out this year and we are all richer for having Bernie Rhodenbarr (and Lawrence Block) in our lives.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publicist. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.