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Sunday, March 01, 2015

What's the Worst That Could Happen? (Dortmunder Novels) by Donald E. Westlake | LibraryThing

Dortmunder is another fine creation of Donald Westlake.  He occasionally appears in the Parker stories, but this one is devoted to Dortmunder himself.  Things always seem to go wrong and the beginning is no exception. They attempt to burgle a house on Long Island that’s supposed to be empty but it’s a house being used as a trysting place for Fairbanks (pun perhaps?) a thieving executive millionaire and his mistress.  He calls the cops and then has the temerity to steal a “lucky” ring off Dortmunder’s finger before he gets hauled off to jail. Dortmunder escapes the police car (a humorous event in itself) and vows to get the ring back and make the guy sorry for his humiliation.

The plot then revolves around Dortmunders extraordinary capers to get the ring back.  And in the process, they decide to rob a Las Vegas casino.  After conducting a little third-rate burglary at the Watergate.  A little third-rate burglary at the Watergate?” Andy said, “I already tried that on him, and it didn’t work. John isn’t much of a history buff.”... Herman paused to take a roll of duct tape from inside his tuxedo jacket, tear off a length, and attach it to the edge of the door over the striker to keep it from locking. Spies, political agents, and other amateurs put such tape on a door horizontally, so that it shows on both front and back, and can be noticed by a passing security person.  (There is a risk here that anyone under the age of forty will not get this reference at all.)

What makes these books are the little side comments Westlake throws in a social criticism. For example: “On the TV, people covered with blood were being carried to ambulances. Wherever it was, it looked like a real mess. Then, as Dortmunder watched, the people and the ambulances faded away and some candy bars began to dance.”  and “The thing is,” Andy explained, “when I feel I need a car, good transportation, something very special, I look for a vehicle with MD plates. This is one place where you can trust doctors. They understand discomfort, and they understand comfort, and they got the money to back up their opinions.”

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