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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Take Life Too Seriously, 9 Nov 2004
By 
Peter Kenney (Birmingham, Alabama, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Bernie Rhodenbarr is a burglar and a sleuth. He ia almost 35 years old, but opening locks and stealing things is the only trade he knows.
While drinking in one of his favorite bars, Bernie meets a stranger who offers him $5,000 to steal a box from the home of J. Francis Flaxford. The stranger seems to know about Bernie's many accomplishments as a burglar. Bernie has his reservations but he accepts a $1,000 advance and enters Flaxford's apartment when it is supposed to be empty. Almost immediately he is surprised by two cops. When one of them searches the apartment, he finds Flaxford murdered in the back bedroom. Bernie races from the apartment, convinced he has been set up by the stranger in the bar.
Bernie is now a fugitive from justice and he decides to hide out in the apartment of an actor friend who is away on a road trip. After a restless night, he is awakened by a girl who stops by to water the plants. The girl introduces herself as Ruth and takes an interest in Bernie's plight after she recognizes him from TV newscasts. Together they start to plan how Bernie can find the real killer.
They decide to begin by locating the stranger who set Bernie up in the first place. The stranger turns out to be an actor named Wesley Brill who was hired by Darla Sandoval to approach Bernie about the burglary. Darla wants to recover some incriminating photos from Flaxford who was blackmailing her. From this point on the plot takes a few neat twists aided by some incredible coincidences.
The book has a light-hearted tone, mainly because Bernie doesn't take life too seriously. Amidst a cast of clownish characters, two crooked policemen manage to stand out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Satirical Look at Cops and Robbers, 3 May 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
Lawrence Block is one of our most talented mystery authors. In the Bernie Rhodenbarr series he explores out an ordinary, but intelligent, "honest" person might go about pursuing a life of crime as a fastidious and talented burglar who isn't proud of what he does, doesn't like to hang out with criminals, and really gets a big thrill out of breaking and entering . . . and removing valuables. As you can see, there's a sitcom set-up to provide lots of humor. But the humor works well in part because Mr. Block is able to put the reader in the Bernie's shoes while he breaks, enters and steals . . . and arranges to evade the long arm of the law. To balance the "honest" burglar is an array of "dishonest" and equally easy-money-loving cops. As a result, you're in a funny moral never-never land while your stomach tightens and your arm muscles twitch as tension builds. To make matters even more topsy-turvy, Bernie at some point in every story turns into an investigator who must figure out "who-dun-it" for some crime that he personally didn't do. It's almost like one of those "mystery at home" games where the victim comes back as the police investigator, playing two roles. Very nice!
So much for explaining the concept of the series. Burglars Can't Be Choosers is the first book in the series. I strongly suggest that you begin the series by reading this one. Each story in the series adds information and characters in a way that will reduce your pleasure of the others if read out of order. Although, I originally read them out of order and liked them well enough. I'm rereading them now in order, and like it much better this way.
As Stephen King likes to point out, a great way to start a book is to put a character in an unusual situation and then let things happen from there. Burglars Can't Be Choosers certainly follows that route in a successful manner with what reads and feels like a very realistic burglary experience.
The characterizations, plot development, and dialogue are wonderful in the book. The only flaw from my perspective relates to the solution to the mystery. I thought it wasn't nearly interesting enough while it was being finally unraveled. As a result, the book is at its best in the beginning and middle, and weakens towards the end. Otherwise, I would have awarded five stars.
It would be a mistake to leave even a mystery "page turner" without thinking through the moral implications of the book. How many times do "honest" people self-justify what they do because it's easy money and they can pull it off? Certainly, the current rash of corporate fraud seems to suggest that it's pretty common. Maybe part of the appeal of this book and the series is that Mr. Block is exposing our own foibles to ourselves a little as we walk in Bernie's shoes.
Do what's right, not what's irresistible.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A funny and gripping thriller., 19 Sep 2000
I got this book free with a magazine but I have subsequently bought and read nearly 30 other Lawrence Block books including the rest of the burglar series. It's that good. It's basically a whodunnit but unlike other writers Block gives the reader as much information as the character has. So by the time Bernie, the burglar of the title, has figured it out so should you. The only criticism I have is that they go too fast, I've read most of the burglar books in one sitting. The Matt Scudder series by Block are also excellent.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting characters, 30 Dec 2013
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Liked the characters and the simplicity of the story. Nice introduction to the series. I will definitely read the second. I am into Scudder series too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars First Bernie Book, 21 Oct 2011
This review is from: Burglars Can't Be Choosers (Hardcover)
Loved this book. And Bernie could have been Keller, except he wasn't. He could think and there was no violence. But there was attitude. Complete opposite to a noir book. Great stuff.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Burglar And A Sleuth, 25 May 2002
By A Customer
Bernie Rhodenbarr is a burglar and a sleuth. He is almost thirty-five years old, but opening locks and stealing things is the only trade he knows.
While drinking in one of his favorite bars, Bernie meets a stranger who offers him $5,000 to steal a box from the home of J. Francis Flaxford. The stranger seems to know about Bernie's many accomplishments as a burglar. Bernie has his reservations but he accepts a $1,000 advance and enters Flaxford's apartment when it is supposed to be empty. Almost immediately he is surprised by two cops. When one of them searches the apartment, he finds Flaxford murdered in the back bedroom. Bernie races from the apartment, convinced he has been set up by the stranger in the bar.
Bernie is now a fugitive from justice and he decides to hide out in the apartment of an actor friend who is away on a road trip. After a restless night, he is awakened by a girl who stops by to water the plants. The girl introduces herself as Ruth and takes an interest in Bernie's plight after she recognizes him from TV newscasts. Together they start to plan how Bernie can find the real killer.
They decide to begin by locating the stranger who set Bernie up in the first place. The stranger turns out to be an actor named Wesley Brill who was hired by Darla Sandoval to approach Bernie about the burglary. Darla wants to recover some incriminating photos from Flaxford who was blackmailing her. From this point on the plot takes a few neat twists aided by some incredible coincidences.
The book has a light-hearted tone, mainly because Bernie doesn't take life too seriously. Amidst a cast of clownish characters, two crooked policemen manage to stand out.
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Burglars Can't Be Choosers
Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Lawrence Block (Hardcover - Feb 1995)
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