What's not to like about Westlake, the master of comic crime fiction, who's entertained us for decades? His magic touch when it comes to storytelling is as strong as ever. Great writing takes you into Dortmunder's criminal world, and just when you think you know what will happen, Westlake tosses in a twist that ricochets the story in unexpected directions. This is sheer entertainment and total fun.

Master thief John Dortmunder is minding his own criminal business when ex-cop Johnny Eppick contacts him about a job. Unbelievably, he wants Dortmunder to pull off the impossible heist of an incredibly valuable pure gold chess set. Since Johnny has pictures of him helping himself to other people's stuff, Dortmunder knows he'll be off to the slammer if he doesn't play along.

But he also knows the heist can't be pulled off, so, deeply depressed, he contemplates life in the clink. But his ever-faithful gang rallies round to rescue him from the depths of despair -- and to find a way to get their mitts on that darned chess set. (Warner, May, 359 pp., $24.99)
Reviewed by: 
Jo Peters