An average Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery novel is still a decent read. Lawrence Block set the bar pretty high with the early books in this mystery series such as The Burglar in the Closet, The Burglar Who Liked To Quote Kipling, and the very funny The Burglar in the Library, but The Burglar on the Prowl is average and rambles on a bit too much.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Rhodenbarr is a burglar who runs a used bookstore by day. As any continuing character in a thriller series, he has a coterie of friends and foes such as Carolyn Kaiser, the gay dog groomer, and Ray Kirshmann, the crooked NYPD detective. Bernie is a glib sort of character that allows Block to indulge in humor, something he cannot really do in his Matthew Scudder or Keller series. Here again, that humor is hit and miss.

The Burglar on the Prowl is plotted around a series of really, really big coincidences that the second-story man himself acknowledges. While preparing for a heist, he decides to get some training breaking into another house only to find himself the ear witness to a despicable crime. He is then accused of another heist that took place the same night in the same neighborhood and ends up caught in the vary tangled web of deceit and characters involved in that second crime. If it sounds like a bit of a mess, it is.

Still, Lawrence Block is an effective writer so fans of the genre will stick to this novel even if it is not the kind of page turner Block has been known to pen. There is far too much going on and if takes about a hundred pages too many to get to the end. Do not attempt to introduce someone to this series with this latest instalment in the Burglar series but if you already like it, it’s not bad.

The Burglar on the Prowl
Lawrence Block
Harper Torch 2005
350 pages

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