By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons: a Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery, by Lawrence Block

“‘Case closed, BThe Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, by Lawrence Blockernie.  You’re a vanishin’ breed and you always were.'”

There has always been a timeless quality to Lawrence Block‘s Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries.  The more things change, the more Bernie remains — essentially — the same.  A bookseller by day and a burglar by night, Bernie keeps cracking wise in the eleventh outing of this eminently entertaining series set in Manhattan. In The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, a collector enlists Bernie’s help “retrieving” some rare documents and artifacts to add to his burgeoning…button collection.  The intrepid thief’s capers take him from the basement archives of a museum, to a wealthy agoraphobe’s tony Fifth Avenue apartment.  Along the way, readers can count on appearances by other MVPs in this series, including tough-talking NYPD cop Ray Kirschmann, and Bernie’s best friend (and dog groomer extraordinaire) Carolyn Kaiser, as they try to puzzle out the mystery of an elderly woman found dead in her ransacked brownstone.  And don’t forget Raffles, the feline mascot at Barnegat Books, who just happens to be named after another gentleman burglar.

In case you hadn’t guessed, sometimes the mystery plays a rather incidental part in this cozy series.  What keeps me eagerly returning to these books is the sheer fun of reading them.  Bernie’s boyish charm is infectious — this well-read rogue never takes himself — or anyone else — too seriously.  The same can be said for Block, who fills his book with playful, snappy banter and arcane tidbits about everything from F. Scott Fitzgerald to American Colonial silver.

Sure, there’s a denouement à la Nero Wolfe in which Bernie finally reveals the guilty party in a room full of suspects, but that’s not really the point of this gentle read.  Bend an elbow with Carolyn and Bernie as they have a beer at the Bum Rap. Speculate with them about the daily delectable “Juneau Lock” entrée from the Taiwanese take-out place, Two Guys from Taichung.  Roam the city that Block so clearly loves.  Readers who enjoy witty, character-driven mysteries with a strong sense of place should check out these enjoyable books.  Burglars Can’t Be Choosers is the first title in this series, but Block’s latest entry provides an excellent introduction to the Bernie Rhodenbarr mysteries.


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