The Burglar Who Liked To Quote Kipling (1979) by Lawrence Block

Although included as one of the 100 Greatest Literary Detectives Bernie Rhodenbarr is very much an accidental sleuth as his primary occupation is that of lawbreaker.

At the beginning of this, the third book in the series, he has recently come out of prison and bought a second-hand bookstore and tells Ray Kirschmann, “the best cop money could buy, and money could buy him seven days a week”, that his life of crime is behind him, but by the end of chapter two, he has stolen a car to go and steal a rare book from a collector. The burglary itself goes smoothly but when he goes to hand it over to his client he is drugged and wakes up with a gun in his hand and a dead woman in front of him. With the police on his trail, he will have to catch the real killer before they catch him.

Bernie is an amusing character – chapter one where he bamboozles an incompetent shoplifter is brilliant – and the fact that he steals what he needs rather than pay for it just because he can, provides plenty of incident.

The book climaxes with an unexpectedly traditional gathering of the suspects, and whilst I was having too much fun to be bothered with a seeming lack of clues, at this point I realised that there were some good ones hidden away in amongst the various shenanigans. 

I’d definitely pick up another of Bernie’s burglarious adventures if I came across one second-hand.

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