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The Burglar in the Library    by Lawrence Block order for
Burglar in the Library
by Lawrence Block
Order:  USA  Can
Signet, 1998 (1997)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Bernie Rhodenbarr has to be my favorite burglar, an entry in his series always a welcome addition to my book pile. Bernie and his female friend - both ogle the girls they run across - journey north to New England from New York City to spend a quiet weekend at an inn. They intend to get away from the city for a few days, enjoy the delights of the countryside, and possibly purloin a valuable first edition of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler, which copy was inscribed to Dashiell Hammett by the author. What more could a literary burglar want?

Cuttleford House - an English Country House lookalike - turns into a classic Agatha Christie mystery venue as dead bodies appear with disturbing regularity. Of course, Bernie figures out just what dastardly deeds were being done and by whom - involving more than one guilty party. A snowstorm and cut telephone lines isolate guests and staff as they line the bodies up outside in lawn chairs, covered by sheets and a fresh fall of snow. Though every country house mystery cliché is put into play, Block's writing style makes the story seem new. It's a delight from beginning to end.

Bernie's outlook on life is refreshing. Although he operates on the other side of the law at times, you find yourself rooting for him to stay on the outside of prison bars. His lesbian best friend is as much fun as Bernie. They are well suited. Block writes with such an engaging humor that it's a disappointment when the tale is told and the story ends. The reader always wants more.

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