Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Burglar in the Closet (Lawrence Block, 1978)

Got this one at the flea market for a couple of Euros. I’m not Block’s biggest fan but was totally persuaded by this weird cover. Which - amazingly enough - I cannot find on internet so I took a shot of it myself for your viewing pleasure. Its author is a guy named Alan Forster and after a bit of googling, this could be him.

Back cover quotes Robert Ludlum saying that this is “Light-hearted crime at its very best”. I’m not sure if this light-hearted crap was actual category back in those days but I’m positive that nowadays this novel would end up in so called “young adults” section of the bookstore instead of “crime”. It’s not bad and I’ll probably give it to my nephew when he’ll be 15 but it’s just not my cup of tea. 

It’s centred on this amateurish detective whose day job's a burglar. He gets involved in some far-fetched story of burglary/murder mystery involving his dentist (!) and to make things worse he gets help from another amateur in dentist’s secretary (!!). And yes, of course he scores. 

Main problem is a lack of classical detective work based on logic. Our hero basically cracks the case by getting drunk with a victim's good friend who supplies him a list of three men that used to fuck unfortunate Crystal (the victim). They are The Legal Beagle (a lawyer), Grabow the Artist (a painter) and Knobby the Bartender (yes, you’ve guessed it – he’s a bartender) and they become center of his investigation and his only suspects (remember Cutie?). He cannot trace one of them but breaks into homes of the other two and – true enough – they are both involved. In the meantime, just to fill the gaps I imagine, he must also deal with some good cops and some corrupted cops and some lawyers (they are all bastards anyhow). He’s so ridiculous incompetent that he digs himself a hole too deep to get out of and he even considers hiring a real PI to get him off the hook. I shit you not, here’s a quote: “Maybe I can hire a private detective to investigate this thing professionally. I’m not having much luck as an amateur”. I know of course this was meant to be ironic, but to me it’s just pathetic…

I also had problem with the writing style which keeps trying to be amusing and witty. It’s not as annoying as Jonny Porkpie’s (nothing is) but I still struggled to finish this without much yawning. At least is not very long one.



My name is Bernie Rhodenbarr and I’m a thief and I love to steal. I just plain love it.

Body count
4, all pretty uninspiring. For one of them it’s not even clear if there was murder or was it an accident or maybe even suicide.

an ex-wife and a secretary

Location: NYC, 70s

Cool lines:
The problem, of course, derived from an offshoot of Parkinson’s Law. A person, be he bureaucrat or burglar, tends to take for a task as much time as is available for it.

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