Tom Jimson is a nasty piece of work. He's also an ex-cellmate of John Dortmunder's who has just been released from prison and unexpectedly shows up on Dortmunder's doorstep to ask him to help to recover some of the loot he had stashed away before going away. He'd buried it in a coffin, behind a library, in a small town almost 30 years ago. The problem is, the town and the surrounding valley have since been flooded under 50 feet of water to form a reservoir.
As an ideas man, Dortmunder's specialty is to come up with brilliant plans but this time he's faced with a perplexing conundrum. How do you sneak into a reservoir that is off-limits to the public, find a box buried in ground that is also underwater? Well, one thing's for sure, if John Dortmunder and his gang is involved, it won't go without a hitch and the results will be hilarious.
The crew backing up from previous books are the ever reliable Andy Kelp, Tiny Bulcher who's starting to seem almost human now, driving specialist Stan Murch, Murch's Mom and Dortmunder's better half, May. May seems to be playing a more important role in each successive outing and is a fine foil for Dortmunder doom and gloom attitude.
This is an unusual Dortmunder book because it is at least twice as long as any of the previous entries in the series. This serves to give Dortmunder room to come up with even more brilliant plans. It also allows us to get to know the regular cast in much greater depth. For example, we finally find out what Murch's Mom's first name is in this book. Westlake also manages to introduce us to a few more offbeat characters that complement the regular mob nicely.
As usual, Donald Westlake has given us a riotous caper that is simply a joy to read. In order to fully understand each character's idiosyncrasies I would recommend reading the earlier books first, an enjoyable task in itself, although it's not absolutely necessary. There are numerous references to earlier capers, but these only serve to give the reader the feeling of being an insider to the gang, the references don't spoil any plots.