Burglars Can’t Be Choosers ~ Lawrence Block

  • Title: Burglars Can’t Be Choosers
  • Author: Lawrence Block
  • Series: Bernie Rhodenbarr #1
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  Bernie-the-burglar Rhondenbarr takes on a simple apartment break-in, only to find a dead body in the bedroom. Now he’s on the run with his old nemesis, Detective Kirschmann, nipping at his heels.

Bernie is a burglar, and he doesn’t hide the fact, although he doesn’t advertise it either. In this novel, he tells his story with close attention to details, dry humor, and panache worthy of the best of mystery writers.

Usually, Bernie works alone, but this time he took a job offered by a vaguely menacing, pear-shaped stranger. Stealing a blue box out of an empty apartment for 5K seemed like easy money, especially for an experienced thief, but when Bernie gets into the apartment, all his plans go haywire. First, the box is not where it was supposed to be. Then the police show up. And then a fresh corpse of the apartment owner is discovered in the bedroom.

Seeing the trap closing around him, Bernie runs. With the charge of murder he didn’t commit hanging over his head (he didn’t even know the owner was at home, much less dead) he has to figure out fast who set him up to take the fall and why. And incidentally, who killed the poor guy who didn’t have the blue box Bernie was hired to steal.

Of course, Bernie isn’t alone in his predicament: there is a girl in the picture, as mysterious as the pear-shaped man, but at least the girl is on Bernie’s side. Probably. Hopefully. 

The protagonist and other characters in the novel are all a bit sketchy; the author is just finding his way into the series that will last for 9 more books, but the plot moves very fast, dragging the reader along. Although the book is rather short, it includes a complete story. No thread is left dangling, every loose end is neatly tied up, and the writer’s sheer inventiveness leaves us wanting for more.

A quick, satisfying read. Although the novel was published almost 40 years ago, it doesn’t seem outdated, except for the absence of cell phones.   


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