Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Lawrence Block


Bernie Rhodenbarr is a personable chap, a good neighbor, a passable poker player. His chosen profession, however, might not sit well with some. Bernie is a burglar, a good one, effortlessly lifting valuables from the not-so-well-protected abodes of well-to-do New Yorkers like a modern-day Robin Hood. (The poor, as Bernie would be the first to tell you, alas, have nothing worth stealing.)

He's not perfect, however; he occasionally makes mistakes. Like accepting a paid assignment from a total stranger to retrieve a particular item from a rich man's apartment. Like still being there when the cops arrive. Like having a freshly slain corpse lying in the next room, and no proof that Bernie isn't the killer.

Now he's really got his hands full, having to locate the true perpetrator while somehow eluding the police -- a dirty job indeed, but if Bernie doesn't do it, who will?

“Imaginative persons could probably find interesting things to do with handcuffs and a nightstick.”

Cozies are fun, but every genre needs variety to stay interesting for the reader. The same old can get ... well, old after awhile. This book delivers that twist by having the main character be an unapologetic cat burglar who opens the book breaking into an apartment, enjoying it, and then getting caught up in a far worse crime.

It may be morally wrong, but the quirk works, especially since Bernie is fun. He has his criminal morals and decent values, despite his knack for theft, so remains likeable. Definitely not the typical doe-eyed cozy lead. The lead detective is as funny as Bernie himself.

Berney is a character not duplicated in many other cozies - I like the charm of them but this one brings a punch of fun, something different, a crossing of the moral lines, a little humor, first person POV.

I have to say this book has the funniest cozy body discovery I've read about - ever.

Mystery wise, it works since the MC gets clues, follows leads, gets misdirected and solves the mystery cleverly enough, stylish speech and all. This follows up with an end twist that I didn't see coming. And no, I didn't guess the culprit. Ms. Sherlock Holmes I am not. Looking back it makes sense but it's not something I noticed, so mystery kudos to the author.

If you enjoy fun but not obnoxiously sweet/sappy humor mysteries, you may like this one. I know Lawrence Block has a highly regarded reputation and these aren't considered his best. Still, enjoyed this intro to him here.

Definitely a series I'll continue reading. Appreciated the afterword from the author with the details of how he came up with the concept, funny how those ideas work.

   Book Quotes:

“As my grandmother used to say, if you've got nothing good to say about someone, let's hear it.”

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