LAWRENCE BLOCK – The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling. Bernie Rhodenbarr #3. Random House, hardcover, 1979. Paperback editions include Pocket, 1982; Signet, 1997.


   There is a little bit of continuity in the Burglar books, but if you read them out of order, there’s never a lot you’re going to feel you’re missing. As this one begins, Bernie is enjoying his life as a Greenwich Village bookstore owner, and as he tries to explain to Ray Kirschmann, he’s so happy in this new line of work that he’s never going back to his old one.

   That being, of course, the best burglar in Manhattan who now owns a bookstore and is now officially retired. And I’ll bet you don’t believe that either, do you? Off he does the very same evening on his most recent consignment case, that of stealing a book, and if you were to guess, clear out of the blue, that the book is by one Rudyard Kipling, well, I’ll give you points for that too.

   Not just any book, mind you. It’s one that’s one of a kind. A presentation copy from Kipling to H. Rider Haggard of a book that was suppressed after printing but before publication, with all of the other copies destroyed.

   And therein lies the tale. Bernie and the man who hired him are not the only ones with eyes on the book, and course there’s more. While trying to deliver the book, Bernie is drugged, only to awake with a dead body in the room and Bernie’s fingerprints on the gun. It takes all of Bernie’s wits to get out of this one.

   The book get a little complicated at the end in order to sort out that goes on in this one, but I don’t think many readers will ask for their money back after chalking up yet another wackily witty adventure of Bernie on the loose, and trying to stay that way.