Burglars Can't Be Choosers (Bernie Rhodenbarr Series #1)

( 12 )

Overview

Bernie Rhodenbarr is a personable chap, a good neighbor, a passable poker player. His chosen profession, however, might not sit well with some. Bernie is a burglar, a good one, effortlessly lifting valuables from the not-so-well-protected abodes of well-to-do New Yorkers like a modern-day Robin Hood. (The poor, as Bernie would be the first to tell you, alas, have nothing worth stealing.)

He's not perfect, however; he occasionally makes mistakes. Like accepting a paid assignment ...

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Burglars Can't Be Choosers (Bernie Rhodenbarr Series #1)

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Overview

Bernie Rhodenbarr is a personable chap, a good neighbor, a passable poker player. His chosen profession, however, might not sit well with some. Bernie is a burglar, a good one, effortlessly lifting valuables from the not-so-well-protected abodes of well-to-do New Yorkers like a modern-day Robin Hood. (The poor, as Bernie would be the first to tell you, alas, have nothing worth stealing.)

He's not perfect, however; he occasionally makes mistakes. Like accepting a paid assignment from a total stranger to retrieve a particular item from a rich man's apartment. Like still being there when the cops arrive. Like having a freshly slain corpse lying in the next room, and no proof that Bernie isn't the killer.

Now he's really got his hands full, having to locate the true perpetrator while somehow eluding the police — a dirty job indeed, but if Bernie doesn't do it, who will?

Fans of Lawrence Block's saucy series burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr (who was revived after a long absence in the recent The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams) will be delighted to learn that Dutton is bringing back the book that launched Bernie about 16 years ago. Burglars Can't Be Choosers shows an insouciant Bernie before he acquired the antiquarian bookstore he now runs when not burgling. As in Ted Williams, there turns out to be a corpse in the apartment where Bernie is doing his job; otherwise the two books are much different: Ted Williams is much funnier, but there's always pleasure to be had in seeing the birth of an enduring hero.

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Editorial Reviews

Mike Lupica
If Lawrence Block writes it, I read it. -- New York Newsday
Library Journal
Bernie Rhodenbarr is your typical New Yorker—except this resident makes his living as a professional burglar. Bernie specializes in stealing valuables from the well-to-do denizens of the Big Apple, and while his neighbors would consider him a good guy, Bernie just can't help but love the thrill of a good heist. Bernie breaks his own rules and accepts a burglary job from a total stranger, but things go from bad to worse. When the police show up in the middle of the theft, a corpse is discovered in the room next door, and Bernie is the prime suspect. Now he's got to find the real killer to clear his less-than-sterling reputation. VERDICT A first-rate example of what a cozy mystery can be. With the right combination of humor, snappy dialog, plot, and characterization, Block gives his series debut (first published in 1977) enough zip to appeal to genre and nongenre fans alike.
From Barnes & Noble
Bernie-the-burglar Rhondenbarr takes on a simple apartment break-in, only to find a dead body in the bedroom. Now he's on the run with his old nemesis, Detective Kirschmann, nipping at his heels.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060582555
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/24/2004
  • Series: Bernie Rhodenbarr Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 396,728
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.80 (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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Read an Excerpt

Burglars Can't Be Choosers


By Block, Lawrence

HarperTorch

ISBN: 0060582553

Chapter One

A handful of minutes after nine I hoisted my Bloomingdale's shopping bag and moved out of a doorway and into step with a tall blond fellow with a faintly equine cast to his face. He was carrying an attaché case that looked too thin to be of much use. Like a high-fashion model, you might say. His topcoat was one of those new plaid ones and his hair, a little longer than my own, had been cut a strand at a time.

"We meet again," I said, which was an out-and-out lie. "Turned out to be a pretty fair day after all."

He smiled, perfectly willing to believe that we were neighbors who exchanged a friendly word now and then. "Little brisk this evening," he said.

I agreed that it was brisk. There wasn't much he might have said that I wouldn't have gladly agreed with. He looked respectable and he was walking east on Sixty-seventh Street and that was all I required of him. I didn't want to befriend him or play handball with him or learn the name of his barber or coax him into swapping shortbread recipes. I just wanted him to help me get past a doorman.

The doorman in question was planted in front of a seven-story brick building halfway down the block, and he'd been very nearly as stationary as the building itself during the past half-hour. I'd given him that much time to desert his post and he hadn't taken advantage of it, so now I was going to have to walk right past him. That's easier than it sounds, and it's certainly easier than the various alternatives I'd considered earlier -- circling the block and going through another building to get into the airshaft behind the building I wanted, doing a human fly act onto the fire escape, torching my way through steel grilles on basement or first-floor windows. All of those things are possible, I suppose, but so what? The proper method is Euclidean in its simplicity: the shortest route into a building is through its front door.

I'd hoped that my tall blond companion might be a resident of the building himself. We could have continued our conversation, such as it was, right through the lobby and onto the elevator. But this was not to be. When it was clear that he was not going to turn from his eastward course I said, "Well, here's where I get off. Hope that business in Connecticut works out for you."

This ought to have puzzled him, as we hadn't talked about any business in Connecticut or elsewhere, but perhaps he assumed I'd mistaken him for someone else. It hardly mattered. He kept on walking toward Mecca while I turned to my right (toward Brazil), gave the doorman a quick unfocused nod and smile, warbled a pleasant "Good evening" at a gray-haired woman with more than the traditional number of chins, chuckled unconvincingly when her Yorkie made snapping sounds at my heels, and strode purposefully onto the self-service elevator.

I rode to the fourth floor, poked around until I found the stairway, and walked down a flight. I almost always do this and I sometimes wonder why. I think someone must have done it in a movie once and I was evidently impressed, but it's really a waste of time, especially when the elevator in question is self-service. The one thing it does is fix in your mind where the stairs are, should you later need them in a hurry, but you ought to be able to locate stairs without scampering up or down them.

On the third floor, I found my way to Apartment 311 at the front of the building. I stood for a moment, letting my ears do the walking, and then I gave the bell a thorough ring and waited thirty thoughtful seconds before ringing it again.

And that, let me assure you, is not a waste of time. Public institutions throughout the fifty states provide food and clothing and shelter for lads who don't ring the bell first. And it's not enough just poking the silly thing. A couple of years back I rang the bell diligently enough at the Park Avenue co-op of a charming couple named Sandoval, poked the little button until my finger throbbed, and wound up going directly to jail without passing Go. The bell was out of order, the Sandovals were home scoffing toasted English muffins in the breakfast nook, and Bernard G. Rhodenbarr soon found himself in a little room with bars on the windows.

This bell was in order. When my second ring brought no more response than my first, I reached a hand beneath my topcoat -- last year's model, not plaid but olive -- and drew a pigskin case from my trouser pocket. There were several keys in the case and several other useful things as well, these last made of the finest German steel. I opened my case, knocked on the door for luck, and set to work.

A funny thing. The better your building, the higher your monthly rental, the more efficient your doorman, why, the easier it's going to be to crack your apartment. People who live in unattended walkups in Hell's Kitchen will fasten half a dozen deadbolt locks to their doors and add a Segal police lock for insurance. Tenement dwellers take it for granted that junkies will come to kick their doors in and strong-arm types will rip the cylinders out of their locks, so they make things as secure as they possibly can. But if the building itself is so set up as to intimidate your garden variety snatch-and-grab artist, then most tenants make do with the lock the landlord provides.

In this case the landlord provided a Rabson ...

Continues...

Excerpted from Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Block, Lawrence Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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First Chapter

Burglars Can't Be Choosers

Chapter One

A handful of minutes after nine I hoisted my Bloomingdale's shopping bag and moved out of a doorway and into step with a tall blond fellow with a faintly equine cast to his face. He was carrying an attaché case that looked too thin to be of much use. Like a high-fashion model, you might say. His topcoat was one of those new plaid ones and his hair, a little longer than my own, had been cut a strand at a time.

"We meet again," I said, which was an out-and-out lie. "Turned out to be a pretty fair day after all."

He smiled, perfectly willing to believe that we were neighbors who exchanged a friendly word now and then. "Little brisk this evening," he said.

I agreed that it was brisk. There wasn't much he might have said that I wouldn't have gladly agreed with. He looked respectable and he was walking east on Sixty-seventh Street and that was all I required of him. I didn't want to befriend him or play handball with him or learn the name of his barber or coax him into swapping shortbread recipes. I just wanted him to help me get past a doorman.

The doorman in question was planted in front of a seven-story brick building halfway down the block, and he'd been very nearly as stationary as the building itself during the past half-hour. I'd given him that much time to desert his post and he hadn't taken advantage of it, so now I was going to have to walk right past him. That's easier than it sounds, and it's certainly easier than the various alternatives I'd considered earlier -- circling the block and going through another building to get into the airshaft behind the building I wanted, doing a human fly act onto the fire escape, torching my way through steel grilles on basement or first-floor windows. All of those things are possible, I suppose, but so what? The proper method is Euclidean in its simplicity: the shortest route into a building is through its front door.

I'd hoped that my tall blond companion might be a resident of the building himself. We could have continued our conversation, such as it was, right through the lobby and onto the elevator. But this was not to be. When it was clear that he was not going to turn from his eastward course I said, "Well, here's where I get off. Hope that business in Connecticut works out for you."

This ought to have puzzled him, as we hadn't talked about any business in Connecticut or elsewhere, but perhaps he assumed I'd mistaken him for someone else. It hardly mattered. He kept on walking toward Mecca while I turned to my right (toward Brazil), gave the doorman a quick unfocused nod and smile, warbled a pleasant "Good evening" at a gray-haired woman with more than the traditional number of chins, chuckled unconvincingly when her Yorkie made snapping sounds at my heels, and strode purposefully onto the self-service elevator.

I rode to the fourth floor, poked around until I found the stairway, and walked down a flight. I almost always do this and I sometimes wonder why. I think someone must have done it in a movie once and I was evidently impressed, but it's really a waste of time, especially when the elevator in question is self-service. The one thing it does is fix in your mind where the stairs are, should you later need them in a hurry, but you ought to be able to locate stairs without scampering up or down them.

On the third floor, I found my way to Apartment 311 at the front of the building. I stood for a moment, letting my ears do the walking, and then I gave the bell a thorough ring and waited thirty thoughtful seconds before ringing it again.

And that, let me assure you, is not a waste of time. Public institutions throughout the fifty states provide food and clothing and shelter for lads who don't ring the bell first. And it's not enough just poking the silly thing. A couple of years back I rang the bell diligently enough at the Park Avenue co-op of a charming couple named Sandoval, poked the little button until my finger throbbed, and wound up going directly to jail without passing Go. The bell was out of order, the Sandovals were home scoffing toasted English muffins in the breakfast nook, and Bernard G. Rhodenbarr soon found himself in a little room with bars on the windows.

This bell was in order. When my second ring brought no more response than my first, I reached a hand beneath my topcoat -- last year's model, not plaid but olive -- and drew a pigskin case from my trouser pocket. There were several keys in the case and several other useful things as well, these last made of the finest German steel. I opened my case, knocked on the door for luck, and set to work.

A funny thing. The better your building, the higher your monthly rental, the more efficient your doorman, why, the easier it's going to be to crack your apartment. People who live in unattended walkups in Hell's Kitchen will fasten half a dozen deadbolt locks to their doors and add a Segal police lock for insurance. Tenement dwellers take it for granted that junkies will come to kick their doors in and strong-arm types will rip the cylinders out of their locks, so they make things as secure as they possibly can. But if the building itself is so set up as to intimidate your garden variety snatch-and-grab artist, then most tenants make do with the lock the landlord provides.

In this case the landlord provided a Rabson ...

Burglars Can't Be Choosers. 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

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2012

    Beginning and intro to bernie

    Quick, cute book. Very short. Number one in this burglar series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2012

    Bernie rocks New York

    I have followed the "Burglar" series for many years and Bernie bless his heart just rocks.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 12, 2012

    Very Good

    First time I have ever read Lawrence Block, but I will certainly buy more of his book. He is a breath of fresh air. A whole new idea in suspence.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2012

    Great Start for New Kids on the (Lawrence) Block

    A burglery gone wrong, a murder, and a manhunt makes life for Bernie less than optimal. This book mark the first of the Burglar series and serves as a great introduction to the charming Bernie Rhodenbarr, burglar and hero of the series. My wife is a fan of Block's, and alerted me to a sale of this e-book. It was a fun, quick read, great for Summers visiting the in-laws.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2004

    Bernie Doesn't Take Life Too Seriously

    Bernie Rhodenbarr is a burglar and a sleuth. He is 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 reatless 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.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2000

    Two Crooked Policemen

    Bernie Rhodenbarr is a burglar and a sleuth. He is almost 35 years old, but opening locks and stealing things is the only trade he knows. 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.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2012

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    Posted December 30, 2008

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    Posted August 26, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 12 Customer Reviews

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