cover image The Burglar in the Library: A Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery

The Burglar in the Library: A Bernie Rhodenbarr Mystery

Lawrence Block. Dutton Books, $23.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94301-3

Bernie Rhodenbarr, bookseller and burglar (The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart, etc.), is one of Block's most stylish creations, and this new outing (there has been a reissue or two in recent years) is cause for rejoicing. This time, Bernie is off with pal Carolyn for a weekend at a pseudo-English manor in the wilds of New England. Bernie hasn't the usual salacious aims in mind--Carolyn is a lesbian, after all, and the woman Bernie had wanted to take has just up and married someone else--but there is a rare book he lusts for. Cuttleford House happens to contain an inscribed Raymond Chandler first edition. A huge snowstorm traps everyone at the manor and soon, as happens in the kind of Agatha Christie mysteries Block delights in poking fun at, people start dying mysteriously, one by one. The phone lines are cut; a rope bridge across the creek that is their only egress is gone; and residents are trapped with a murderer, or maybe more than one. It's delightful, lighthearted fun in which keen characterizations, effortlessly loopy dialogue and a narrative style like, well, clotted cream, combine for a rare treat. Bernie gets to say ""I suppose you're wondering why I summoned you all here,"" as he lays out the full deviousness for the survivors. The tale is more ingenious than believable, but belief is not what the Burglar stories are all about. Pure pleasure is. (July)