With the world the way it is, so confusing and unsettling and downright scary, you sometimes just need books that will put a smile on your face. Last weeks’ was most definitely one of these. And of course, anything with the Westlake name and a Dortmunder starring role, is going to have the requisite jokes to take me away from the real world.
Loveable thief, John Dortmunder breaks into a supposedly empty Long island mansion, where he’s surprised to find the owner with a pistol in hand. This owner – who couldn’t be any more a composite of Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump if he was named Murdoch Trump – takes the opportunity to actually steal from Dortmunder. Plucking a ring from his finger before the rent-a-cops haul him away. Well, Dortmunder isn’t going to have that, and so the quest begins for Dortmunder and his crew to get that ring back and steal all they can from Murdoch Trump along the way.
If this hadn’t been written a few years earlier, one could take this as a direct riposte to the George Clooney/Steven Soderbergh version of OCEAN’S ELEVEN. Both end up with the robbery of a Las Vegas casino, but whereas Danny Ocean and crew have various terrible twists and turns along the way, John Dortmunder and his crew manage to do it with professional ease. Reading this, I thought it was the kind of heist that Richard Stark’s Parker would have approved of. And given that Dortmunder is Parker’s slope shouldered, more easy-going, less ruthless alternate universe twin – and is much more at home with calamity than success – that wasn’t a sentence I expected to write.
Yes, it took me away from thinking about Brexit and Trump (although obviously I enjoyed Murdoch Trump getting his comeuppance) and all the other distressing things in the world. There’s more than one amusing set-piece in WHAT’S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN? I can’t shake the feeling, though, that this isn’t top level Dortmunder. However, even mid-ranking is guaranteed to put a smile on my face.
If you’re interested in my own writings, SOMETHING WENT WRONG AND OTHER STRANGE TALES – my frankly must read collection of scary and quirky short stories is available for free now!