The Burglar on the Prowl (Bernie Rhodenbarr Series #10)

( 12 )


A philosophical yet practical gentleman, Bernie Rhodenbarr possesses many admirable qualities: charm, intelligence, sparkling wit, and unwavering loyalty. Of course, he also has this special talent and a taste for life's finer things. So he's more than willing to perform some vengeful larceny for a friend -- ripping off a smarmy, particularly deserving plastic surgeon -- for fun and a very tidy profit.

But during a practice run at another address, Bernie's forced to hide under a...

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The Burglar on the Prowl (Bernie Rhodenbarr Series #10)

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A philosophical yet practical gentleman, Bernie Rhodenbarr possesses many admirable qualities: charm, intelligence, sparkling wit, and unwavering loyalty. Of course, he also has this special talent and a taste for life's finer things. So he's more than willing to perform some vengeful larceny for a friend -- ripping off a smarmy, particularly deserving plastic surgeon -- for fun and a very tidy profit.

But during a practice run at another address, Bernie's forced to hide under a bed when the lady of the house returns unexpectedly with the worst kind of blind date in tow. In no time, Bernie's up to his burgling neck in big trouble. Again. And this time it includes his arrest, no less than four murders, and more outrageous coincidences than any self-preserving felon should ever be required to tie together.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Burglar and bookseller Bernie Rhodenbarr is back in this captivating new hardcover by New York Times–bestselling author Lawrence Block. Bernie's been in trouble with the law before, and he's the first to admit that it taught him an important lesson. Unfortunately for his victims (and fortunately for mystery readers like us), that lesson wasn't "Thou Shalt Not Steal." In Burglar on the Prowl, Bernie's old friend and occasional co-conspirator, Marty Gilmartin, wants to get even with the slightly shady plastic surgeon who stole his girlfriend -- a lovely (though perhaps questionably talented) aspiring actress. Getting into the wall safe at Marty's rival's house should be no problem for Bernie. After years of honing his skills, there's not much that's out of his reach. Still, such elegantly executed excursions take time to plan, in accordance with Bernie's one rule of burglary: "Don't get caught!" Unfortunately, while waiting for the perfect time to execute his perfect plan for Marty, Bernie gets an irresistible urge to go on the prowl. To a burglar, that means improvising. An old pro like Bernie knows it's courting disaster -- fun, but rarely worth the risk. And this time Bernie's luck may have finally run out. It seems there's evidence that contradicts the story he fed the cops to cover the time he was on the prowl -- evidence that puts him in the wrong place at just the right time. Now he's accused of being an accomplice in a deadly break-in and burglary he didn't commit…and that means Bernie must catch the real villains before he ends up doing time for their crimes. This series has a quirky charm all its own that'll make you eager to steal time for it from your schedule, no matter how busy you are. Sue Stone
The New York Times
It takes an agile brain and a devilish wit to pull off this farcical self-satire; but Block not only has what it takes, he also has Bernie, whose elastic ethics and pride in his work (''It is, I blush to admit, a gift,'' he says of his skills) are the key to his raffish charm. — Marilyn Stasio
Publishers Weekly
You'd think that Block, with more than 50 books to his credit, would run out of ideas, but as this 10th in his Burglar series shows (after 1999's The Burglar in the Rye), he's as fresh, witty and inventive as ever. The author builds his plot on stupefying coincidences, but not to worry-everything eventually meshes. A friend asks Bernie Rhodenbarr, confirmed New Yorker, used-book dealer and gentleman burglar, to rob a mob-connected plastic surgeon who stole the friend's mistress. He agrees, and cases the doctor's house in Riverdale, the Bronx. But Bernie is restive and, uncharacteristically (because he plans carefully), he breaks into a Manhattan apartment on a whim and almost gets caught, hiding under the bed while a woman is date-raped. Next day a customer is shot near his bookstore, a mysterious migr couple is murdered, a former Latvian war criminal is reported in New York and Bernie's apartment is ransacked. These crimes seem unrelated in such a large city, but Bernie finds a common thread. In the end, Bernie assembles 22 people (including lawmen) in the surgeon's living room and, Charlie Chan style, explains each participant's role and, where appropriate, crime. Lesser hands would not bring off this breathtaking performance, but in Block's it's seamless and hilarious. Quirky characters like Bernie's pals Carolyn Kaiser, the dog groomer, and cop Ray Kirschmann; an insider's love of New York; and a slew of wonderful puns add to the fun. (Mar. 16) Forecast: MWA Grand Master Block recently received the British Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award, only the third American to be so honored. A 100,000 printing and a 40-city author tour should ensure a run up most bestseller lists. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Block's tenth Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery finds the bookseller/burglar in what might be his most complicated intrigue. After a friend asks Bernie to burglarize the house of a prominent plastic surgeon, in revenge for the doctor's stealing the friend's mistress, Bernie becomes entangled in a labyrinthine plot involving a serial date rapist, Latvian patriots, a linguistics professor, assorted gangsters, and a seemingly ordinary copy of Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent. Bernie, the Poirot of home invasion, gathers everyone even remotely connected to the various crimes at the surgeon's home for a terrific showdown. While not as polished an interpreter of his material as Robert Forster and Joe Mantegna, Block calls attention to the sometimes subtle ironies of his self-mocking story. Highly entertaining; recommended for popular collections. Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061030987
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/25/2005
  • Series: Bernie Rhodenbarr Series, #10
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 344,553
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Block is one of the most widely recognized names in the mystery genre. He has been named a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and is a four-time winner of the prestigious Edgar and Shamus Awards, as well as a recipient of prizes in France, Germany, and Japan. He received the Diamond Dagger from the British Crime Writers' Association—only the third American to be given this award. He is a prolific author, having written more than fifty books and numerous short stories, and is a devoted New Yorker and an enthusiastic global traveler.

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First Chapter

The Burglar on the Prowl

Chapter One

"The man," said my friend Marty Gilmartin, "is an absolute . . .a complete . . .an utter and total . . . " He held out his hands, shook his head, and sighed."Words fail me. "

"Apparently," I agreed. "Nouns, anyway. Adjectives seem to be supporting you well enough, but nouns --"

"Help me out, Bernard," he said. "Who is more qualified to supply le mot juste? Words, after all, are your métier."

"They are?"

"Books are your stock-in-trade, " he said, "and what is a book? Paper and ink and cloth and glue, to be sure, but if a book were nothing more than those mundane components, no one would want to own more than one of them. No, it's the words that constitute a book, sixty or eighty or a hundred thousand of them."

"Or two hundred thousand, or even three." I'd read Grub Street recently, and was thinking about the less-than-eminent Victorians George Gissing wrote about, forced by their publishers to grind out interminable three-volume novels for a body of readers who clearly had far too much time on their hands.

"That's more words than I require," Marty said. "Just one, Bernie, to sum up" -- he glanced around the room, lowered his voice --"no, to impale Crandall Rountree Mapes like an insect upon a pin."

"An insect,"I suggested.

"Far too mild."

"A worm, a rat." He was shaking his head, so I shifted gears and exited the animal kingdom."A bounder?"

"That's closer, Bernie. By God, he is a bounder, but he's much worse than that."

"A cad."

"Better, but --"

I frowned, trying to conjure up a thesaurus spread open before me. A bounder, a cad ...

"A rotter?"

"Oh, that comes close," he said."We'll settle for that if we can't do any better. It's just archaic enough, isn't it? And it's better than bounder or cad because it's clearly not a temporary condition. The corruption is permanent, the man is putrid to the core." He picked up his glass, breathed in the bouquet of aged cognac." Rotter comes very close indeed to conveying just what a thoroughgoing shitheel goes by the name of Crandall Rountree Mapes."

I started to say something, but he held up a hand to stop me. "Bernie," he said, wide-eyed with wonder,"did you hear what I just said?"


"Precisely. That's perfect, the quintessential summation of the man. And where do you suppose the word came from? Not its derivation, that would seem clear enough, but how did it get into our conversation? No one says shitheel anymore."

"You just did."

"I did, and I couldn't guess the last time I uttered it." He beamed. "I must have been inspired," he said, and rewarded himself with a small sip of the venerable brandy. I couldn't think of anything I'd done to merit a reward, but I had a sip from my own glass just the same. It filled the mouth like liquid gold, slid down the gullet like honey, and warmed every cell of the body even as it exalted the spirit.

I wasn't going to drive or operate machinery, so what the hell. I had another sip.

We were in the dining room of The Pretenders, a private club on Gramercy Park every bit as venerable as the cognac. The membership ran to actors and writers, men in or on the fringes of the arts, but there was a membership category called Patron of the Theater, and it was through that door that Martin Gilmartin had entered.

"We need members,"he'd told me once,"and the main criterion for membership at this point is the possession of a pulse and a checkbook, though to look around you, you might suspect that some of our members have neither. Would you like to become a member, Bernie? Did you ever see Cats? If you loved it, you can join as a Patron of the Theater. If you hated it, you can come in as a Critic."

I'd passed up the chance to join, figuring they might draw the line at prospective members with criminal records. But I rarely turned down an invitation to join Marty there for lunch. The food was passable, the drink first-rate, and the service impeccable, but the half-mile walk from Barnegat Books led me past eight or ten restaurants that could say the same. What they couldn't provide was the rich atmosphere of the nineteenth-century mansion that housed The Pretenders, and the aura of history and tradition that permeated the place. And then there was Marty's good company, which I'd be glad of in any surroundings.

He's an older gentleman, and he's what fellows who read Esquire want to be when they grow up -- tall and slender, with a year-round tan and a full head of hair the color of old silver. He's always well groomed and freshly barbered, his mustache trimmed, his attire quietly elegant but never foppish. While enjoying a comfortable retirement, he keeps busy managing his investments and dipping a toe in the water when an attractive business venture comes his way.

And, of course, he's a patron of the theater. As such he goes to quite a few shows, both on and off Broadway, and occasionally invests a few dollars in a production that strikes his fancy. More to the point, his theatrical patronage has consisted in large part of underwriting the careers of a succession of theatrical ingénues, some of whom have actually demonstrated a certain modicum of talent.

Dramatic talent, that is to say. Their talent in another more private realm is something upon which only Marty could comment, and he wouldn't. The man is discretion personified.

We met, I would have to say, in highly unlikely circumstances ...

The Burglar on the Prowl. Copyright © by Lawrence Block. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2006

    Neat concept

    This book was a fun read. The concept was very different, and Block gets his share of laughs. I was disappointed that the style of the book was very similar to Robert Parker though, who is not my favorite by any means. The ending was a surprise, but I felt it was a bit contrived. Still, I'd give three stars for this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2004

    More of the Bernie you know..

    Bernie Rhodenbarr, book store owner and part time robber, can't help the impulses and urges that get keep him in the headlights of the local law enforcement. Everyone who's anybody knows that Bernie is never completely out of the game, and when the request comes from a friend to clean out the wall safe of an established rogue, it is not that hard a decision to make. Success comes with careful planning, so prior reconnaissance of the site is a must. But perhaps not a terribly good idea to make an unplanned stop while doing a little forward scouting for the job. The impulse stops comes in the form of an unknown woman's apartment, and while it was a good idea at the time of entry it rapidly ceases to be so. The occupant returns and Bernie finds himself hiding under the bed, listening to a rape in progress. While it has a bit of a grim beginning, the blip on the morality radar is smoothed over and the story introduces a cast of thousands all somehow connected with a double murder committed in the neighbourhood Bernie is caught appraising on street security cameras. Wrong man, wrong time and Bernie is once again in the thick of it. 'Burglar on the Prowl' is the tenth entry in the Bernie Rhodenbarr series. The self-deprecating wit of Bernie the burglar is the main appeal of this novel, and while the resolution is quite masterful in its complexity, you might find its method of delivery all a bit too hard and serious to take in. Author Lawrence Block proves his versatility in writing a series so different from his other works that you could more easily believe they were crafted by different authors. Don't underestimate the power of a craftily introduced tangent and you'll have fun with this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2004

    A beer and a Block and you're in for a treat

    Lawrence Block¿s tenth entry in his mystery series featuring beguiling burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr has hit the fields of play with a wallop. The first paragraph of BURGLAR ON THE PROWL ends with the frustrated explosion, ¿Words fail me,¿ when Marty Gilmartin, a larcenous man himself, has come to ask of Bernie a favor only a burglar¿s skill can effect. Gilmartin tries to describe his foe, a cad named Mapes who has stolen from him his paramour. Between Bernie and Gilmartin there ensues a lively discussion of apt epithets, deserving obscenities, supple nouns and adjectives, and paper, ink, cloth, and glue, the hard stuff of which supplies Bernie Rhodenbarr¿s day job as legitimate businessman, the proprietor of a used book store. Burgling is only a hobby. Or, should we say, an obsession, in the most agonizing sense. For, Bernie cannot help himself. ¿On the prowl,¿ he says: a phrase ¿deliciously attractive in an unwholesome way.¿ In this book as never before, Bernie informs us of the joys, and the nonsense, of the drive to steal, the thrilling bad-boyness of it, the irresistibility of living on the teetery edge in the full knowledge of terrifying potential consequences. In a book with Bernie as the narrator, you know words will never fail. This, while you sink into a world where crimes go down, thugs threaten, and bodies, alas, collect. After the visit by Gilmartin, Bernie tells his sounding-board lesbian neighbor Carolyn Kaiser about Gilmartin¿s desire to get back at Mapes by lifting laundered cash from a wall safe. Carolyn of course admonishes Bernie against risky behavior. Still, old friends help old friends. She accompanies him on a reconnaissance mission to Mapes¿ home. As it turns out, the moment is not right for a break-in. The two must wait for another day ¿ or night, as it were. But now Bernie is restless. The bloom from Gilmartin¿s exciting charge has ignited the fuse of that calling from which Bernie is powerless to shrink. He slips out one evening and, after a few false starts to test his skills, enters an apartment belonging to a woman who comes home apparently drunk, escorted by a man with a deep voice. Trapped, Bernie slides, with difficulty, under the bed, a cliché of an action, a ridiculous fate for a practiced burglar. While silently berating himself, before long he realizes the woman has been drugged and is becoming a victim of date-rape. Wedged in as he is, he imagines several action scenarios. What Bernie does or does not do after that is one of the nervy flourishes author Block seems more and more willing to dangle before us in recent works. Series books, those with a run of familiar characters, sometimes risk a hazardous course: the danger of sameness. Not under Block¿s able swing. He is testing, testing ¿. And he is unapologetic about some of his conclusions, unpopular though they may prove to be. This series, the burglar series, is the more lighthearted of the author¿s work. ON THE PROWL is faithful to that premise. Yet, as Bernie Rhodenbarr entertains us by pondering the puzzles and profundities of words, their origins and ambiguities, their richness and insufficiencies, he equally mulls over the meanings of life and the whys of inner drives, and sometimes the mirror shines too brightly. Sitting down with a Block book is an adventure of wry wit and understated surprise. It is the pleasant anticipation of overheard conversation so smooth that in retrospect you might easily believe you actually heard it. You wait for the precise bon mot for which Bernie Rhodenbarr, lover of language, titan of trivia, guide to painless historical and literary allusions, is justifiably revered. In the now-and-then references to his past, Bernie, the inveterate book lover, even helps us out by footnoting which other book in the canon holds a particular incident in his ¿backstory,¿ as novelists would call it. But if Lawrence Block loves word

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2004

    A New Block Fan!

    This was my first ever Lawrence Block book and it certainly wont be the last! Its was fun, funny and easy to read. I loved the cast of charactors and Bernie would now be my favourite hero ! Cant wait to get my hands on more of this series!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2004

    Better Than Lettuce Prey...

    Bernie's new adventure takes us on a complex ride much like an underground roller coaster where we enjoy the ride knowing that no real harm will come to Bernie or his friends, while we speed through so many twists and turns in the dark that by the end of the book we are left dizzy and a bit disheveled. And like any good roller coaster fan, we can't wait to get back in line and wait for the next one. Bernie is funny, smart and possesses a phenomenal genius for solving mysteries. And even though he lacks a real three dimensional personality, he's a refreshing break from the overly graphic sexual and violent stories that have become the norm for today's novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2004

    Great Lawrence Block Burglar Book!!

    Lawrence Block at his finest. A wonderful Bernie Rhodenbarr book! What a great read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2004


    Block keep's getting better and better! I really liked the 'realness' of these characters!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2004

    Now THIS is more like it!

    If you are a Bernie fan, run out and grab one of these books today and you will feel like you did when you discovered your first Bernie novel, it is that good. Not to be overly critical of that last Bernie book, but it cannot hold a literary candle to The Burglar on the Prowl. This is what a Bernie book should was a sheer pleasure to read. The wit is back Mr. Block. Stay off the cruise ships when you write and go to Ragsdale and repeat this process again and again. It has produced a winner! I laughed aloud at least 5 times by the beginning of Chapter 4! The wit of Bernie and Carolyn combined with all the wonderful metaphors, word plays, and well-researched literary (and other) references plus the tie-in to the earlier 'Ted Williams' book made this new read seem like an old friend right from the start. Welcome back Bernie! Welcome back Lawrence Block! Well done!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2009

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    Posted February 25, 2011

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    Posted July 1, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

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