cover image Castle in the Air

Castle in the Air

Donald E. Westlake. Hard Case Crime, $9.95 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-78565-722-1

In this breezy crime caper from MWA Grandmaster Westlake (1933–2008), Escobar Lynch, the exiled president of the Latin American country of Yerbadoro, intends to smuggle his ill-gotten wealth out of the country by secretly hiding it in the stone blocks of a disassembled castle being sent to Paris as part of an international exhibition. Meanwhile, Eustace Dench, a self-styled criminal mastermind, along with a hastily assembled band of international thieves, lays plans to hijack the castle and its hidden loot while en route to the City of Light, but none of the gang members speak the others’ language, nobody is sure which stone blocks contain the treasure, and everyone secretly plans to make off with the loot themselves. While the author juggles too many characters to develop them fully and the early sections drag as he assembles his cast, the novel hits its stride as the thieves steal and re-steal the plunder from each other in a manic free-for-all through Paris’s backwater streets, tunnels, and canals. Though this reissue, first published in 1980, may rank as only an average Westlake, that’s good enough for most readers. (Mar.)