This is not my usual sort of book, but I thought I’d throw in a brief review of it anyway, as it was such a fun read.
The Dortmunder series was recommended to me by my friend James. This first in the series begins with Dortmunder having just been released from prison, when he runs into an old associate of his, Kelp. Or rather, Kelp almost literally runs into him. Kelp brings with him the offer of a job: An African nation wants their emerald back from the New York museum in which it is displayed. This is like the story of the Stone of Scone, but funnier and more complicated than just sticking the stone in the back of a car and hoofing off with it.
Dortmunder has been recruited to be the brains of the operation. As Kelp and Dortmunder talk through the possibilities regarding the gang they need to put together, there are some comedic asides about the various characters who are otherwise indisposed such as the driver who ran into a plane and the lock breaker who accidentally released a lion. Having discounted the non-starters they are left with a crack team of five. Apart from themselves they recruit Greenwood the hero, Murch the nerdy driver and Chefwick the lock breaker. What could possibly go wrong with this team of highly effective pros?
The joke is that although they are ingeniously clever at most of the things they do, one major setback usually befalls them just as they have got over the most complicated part of the plot. What starts off as a simple but meticulously planned spring from the museum turns into a farce as one of the gang miscalculates the number of flights of stairs he has taken. From here on in, things get progressively more complicated. They break into and out of places in pursuit of the emerald, but it seems that it is always one step ahead of them.
There are lots of very visual descriptions of running around – and even a comedy double take of a sweeping spotlight. The plots are ingenious and the twists unexpected: several, such as the one involving smaller vehicles inside larger ones, really made me smile.
It’s a quick read and reminded me of being a child reader again, when books were uncomplicated and fast paced and funny. I seem to remember that in those days, all the books I read were either comedies, adventures or school stories. It reminds me of giving Lovely Daughter #2 A Monster Calls to read the other day. She was so disappointed that the writing was so small. I said, “I think this is the way life is going to be from now on.”