LAWRENCE BLOCK – The Burglar in the Closet. Bernie Rhodenbarr #2. Random House, hardcover, 1978. Pocket, paperback, August 1981. Film: Warner, 1987, as Burglar (starring Whoopi Goldberg).

   In close cahoots with his dentist, who somehow has discovered how Bernie makes a living, the latter attempts to burgle the former’s ex-wife. Intended target: a small fortune in jewelry. And all is going well until the lady comes home. What’s worse, she’s not alone. A man who is obviously one the lady’s lovers is with her, and Bernie is stuck – no, worse, locked – in the lady’s bedroom closet.

   And even worse, could that be possible, when the lover has left, there is another knock on her apartment door. This visitor, as it so happens, is a killer, with Bernie, you guessed it, still locked in the closet. It is a ticklish situation, to say the least.

   With the help of the dentist’s cuddly hygenist, Bernie decides that the only way to clear himself from being arrested for the crime is to find the killer himself. This of course he does, or there wouldn’t have been a whole series of additional murders to solve, there being to date nine more over the years.

   But what has made the series such a smashing success over all those years is Lawrence Block’s consistently witty and often irreverent way of telling Bernie’s tales, told by the latter in first person. But after such a smash of an opening act in this one, the detective work sags a little in the middle stanza, but in a “gather all the suspects together at the end” type of finale, both Block and Bernie demonstrate that the reader who hadn’t been paying attention really should have been. The biggest clue of all is right in front of your face as a reader, and mine is red, too.

   Even after reading quite a few of Bernie’s adventures, I still don’t know who I’d cast for the role, be it either TV or another movie. Not Robert Redford. Not Elliott Gould. Not Tom Cruise. But who? Certainly not Whoopi Goldberg.