Though he once talked of retirement, Lawrence Block has been a busy writer the last few years. His recent projects have included new books featuring two of his best-loved characters, detective Matthew Scudder and hit man John Paul Keller, but he’d long given his fans the impression that a third popular character, the burglar Bernie Rhondenbarr, was unlikely to get a new title of his own. Readers would have to be satisfied with the 10 burglar novels, including the most recent, 2004’s “The Burglar on the Prowl.”
But Block’s Christmas gift to readers is a new entry in the series, “The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons,” which the author has chosen to publish himself. The official release date for the book is Dec. 25, and longtime lovers of the series and new readers alike should steal some time between Christmas and New Year’s to enjoy Bernie’s latest escapade.
The burglar books are humorous mysteries, driven by witty dialogue, happenstance, and Bernie’s affable, roguish personality. The new book finds Bernie in the employ of a man with an unusual collection he is seeking to expand via larceny. Bernie also teams up with his sometime nemesis, NYPD plainclothes detective Ray Kirschmann, to investigate a mysterious death. Along the way, Bernie pursues love (or at least lust), eats mysterious Asian cuisine with his best friend and occasional henchperson Carolyn Kaiser, and worries about his beloved bookstore (his more legitimate pursuit) in the age of Amazon.
Block, through Bernie, manages to share some obscure history and some book recommendations without slowing down his tale. Eavesdropping on Carolyn and Bernie as they sort out the difference between Myer Myers and Meyer Meyer is among the book’s many pleasures. So is the big summation gathering in which Bernie reveals who did what and how. Justice might not be precisely served, but the reader surely is. You can count on “The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons.”