What's the Worst That Could Happen? (John Dortmunder Series #9)

What's the Worst That Could Happen? (John Dortmunder Series #9)

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by Donald E. Westlake

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It started with a ring. A cheap ring. The yellow metal said brass, not gold, and the sparkly bits were certainly not diamonds. But the ring belonged to May's horseplaying uncle, who swore it brought good luck. Dortmunder, who wouldn't kick a little good luck out of bed, puts it to the test when he goes to burglarize Long Island billionaire Max Fairbanks. As luck would


It started with a ring. A cheap ring. The yellow metal said brass, not gold, and the sparkly bits were certainly not diamonds. But the ring belonged to May's horseplaying uncle, who swore it brought good luck. Dortmunder, who wouldn't kick a little good luck out of bed, puts it to the test when he goes to burglarize Long Island billionaire Max Fairbanks. As luck would have it, Dortmunder is greeted by Fairbanks himself - and a loaded gun - as soon as he strolls through the door. When the cops arrive, the mogul adds insult to injury by claiming that Dortmunder's lucky ring is actually his. Big mistake, big guy. As soon as Dortmunder can give the cops the slip, the world's most single-minded burglar goes after the fat cat with a vengeance and a team of crooks that only he can assemble. And from the get go everything will go Dortmunder's way - everything, that is, except the ring.

Editorial Reviews

USA Today
If there is any funnier mystery novelist around, I can't imagine who it might be.
Mostly Murder
Outrageiously irreverent, ingenious, implausible, and impossibly inventive. Encore!
San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle
Outlandish...irresistible...another wonderful comic novel featuring the ever-lovable Dortmunder.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
John Dortmunder, the taciturn con man who is the hero of Westlake's funniest series of caper novels, is someone perfectly capable of nursing a grievance. When billionaire hotshot Max Fairbanks, who has caught Dortmunder burgling his Long Island estate, tells the arresting police that the good-luck ring on Dortmunder's finger was stolen from him (when it was in fact a gift from Dortmunder's girlfriend, May), Max's fate, no matter how well protected he may be, is sealed. Dortmunder makes repeated attempts to get his ring back, hitting on ingenious ways to get into the billionaire's lavish Times Square and Watergate apartments, making off each time with considerable loot. But only when Fairbanks goes off to his huge casino/hotel/theme park in Las Vegas, in a deliberate attempt to entrap Dortmunder, does the dour vengeance-seeker shift into really high gear. Picturesque rogues from previous Dortmunder outings are collected into a formidable army, pitted against the best security Max's millions can buy, all leading to a showdown only Westlake could have conceived. As can be expected from this expert hand, the narrative is at once laconic and fast, the jokes constant, fresh and funny. Dortmunder, as always, is a potent brew that makes the world look brighter. Mystery Guild featured alternate. (Oct.)
Library Journal
John Dortmunder is back! Having stolen a religious Eastern European relic in Don't Ask (LJ 3/1/93), the con man and his gang return in the ninth installment of Westlake's comic series to wreak revenge on one Max Fairbanks. In the midst of burglarizing a Long Island mansion, Dortmunder is caught by billionaire Fairbanks, who claims to the police that Dortmunder's lucky ring (given to Dortmunder by his girlfriend, May) actually belongs to him. Unluckily for Fairbanks, he has robbed the wrong man. Determined to get the ring back, Dortmunder enlists his old cronies in pursuing Fairbanks from Washington's notorious Watergate (unlike Nixon's burglars, they don't get caught) to a glitzy Las Vegas casino where Dortmunder exacts a satisfying vengeance. Once again, four-time Edgar Award winner Westlake's deft prose, cleverly funny plot, and amusing characters proves why this remains one of the most popular series in the genre. A welcome addition to all mystery collections.Wilda Williams, "Library Journal"
Thomas Gaughan
Dortmunder, Westlake's highly professional but star-crossed thief, thinks burgling a vacant Long Island mansion owned by media mogul Max Fairbanks will be a walk in the park. Unfortunately, Max is there entertaining Playboy's Miss September, and Dortmunder is no sooner in the door than he's captured by the tycoon. Getting arrested is a normal business risk, but Fairbanks tells the police that Dortmunder's lucky ring is the only thing the thief had time to steal from him. Having his ring stolen from him by his victim offends Dortmunder's sense of fair play, and he begins to stalk Fairbanks' many residences looking for a chance to recover his property. Each time, he just misses the peripatetic mogul. He finds so much to steal that he gets rich, but recovering his ring becomes an affair of honor that ultimately requires him to heist an entire Las Vegas casino--as a diversion. Westlake's Dortmunder stories are among the best comic crime novels in existence, and this one is a worthy addition to the series. Tout it to any patron with a sense of humor or who looks like she/he can use a laugh.
Kirkus Reviews
Acting on a tip that a billionaire's house on Long Island is empty, John Dortmunder and a professional colleague pay it a nocturnal call. But the billionaire, slick Max Fairbanks, is entertaining a Playboy centerfold in the basement, and he not only calls the police on Dortmunder, but, adding insult to injury, steals a trumpery ring from his handcuffed guest's finger. Furious at this flagrant injustice (as what self- respecting thief wouldn't be?), Dortmunder (Don't Ask, 1993, etc.) escapes from custody vowing revenge and makes it his business to track down Fairbanks and reclaim his property. Tracking his well-insulated quarry to the midtown Manhattan hotel he owns, and then to Washington's famed Watergate complex, Dortmunder, with an increasingly elaborate entourage in tow, succeeds in taking Fairbanks for bigger and bigger scores, arousing Fairbanks's growing suspicions, but always—in Westlake's characteristically droll conceit—just missing that worthless ring Fairbanks keeps on his own worthless finger. It's not till Fairbanks's junket takes him to his Las Vegas casino that he makes his stand against his obsessive pursuer, baiting a trap for his nemesis just as Dortmunder's arriving at McCarran Airport with a crack team of 20.

"You always come up with the funny ones, Dortmunder," says one of his accomplices. "It's amusing to be around you." This lovely new Mission: Improbable from the galaxy's king of the comic crime caper will have you shouting a resounding Amen.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
The Dortmunder Series , #9
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Sales rank:
File size:
445 KB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

From the circumstances, Dortmunder would say it was a missing-heir scam. It had begun a week ago, when a guy he knew slightly, a fella called A.K.A. because he operated under so many different names, phoned him and said, "Hey, John, it's A.K.A. here, I'm wondering, you got the flu, something like that? We don't see you around the regular place for a while."

"Which regular place is that?" Dortmunder asked.


"Oh, yeah," Dortmunder said. "Well, I been cuttin back. I might see you there sometime."

Off the phone, Dortmunder looked up the address of Armweery's and went there, and A.K.A. was at a booth in the back, under the loose lips sink ships poster where some wag had blacked out most of the Jap's teeth.

"What this is," A.K.A. said, under his new mustache (this one was gingery, and so, at the moment, was his hair), "is a deposition. A week from Thursday, 10:00 a.m., this lawyer's office in the Graybar Building. Take maybe an hour. You go in, they swear you, ask you some questions, that's it."

"Do I know the answers?"

"You will."

"What's in it for me?"

"Half a gee."

Five hundred dollars for an hour's work; not so bad. If, of course. Depending. Dortmunder said, "What's the worst that could happen?"

A.K.A. shrugged. "They go looking for Fred Mullins out on Long Island."

"Who's he?"


"Got it," Dortmunder said.

"There'll also be a lawyer on our side there," A.K.A. told him. "I mean, the side of the guy that's running this thing. The lawyer isn't in on what's going down, by him you are Fred Mullins, from Carrport, Long Island, sohe'sjust there to see the other side doesn't stray from the program. And at the end of it, in the elevator, he gives you the envelope."

"Sounds okay."

"Easy as falling off a diet," A.K.A. said, and handed him a manila envelope, which he took home and opened, to find it contained a whole story about one Fredric Albert Mullins and an entire family named Anadarko, all living on Red Tide Street out in Carrport between 1972 and 1985. Dortmunder diligently memorized it all, having his faithful companion May deposition him on the information every evening when she came home from the Safeway supermarket where she was a cashier. And then, on the following Wednesday, the day before his personal private show was to open, Dortmunder got another call from A.K.A., who said, "You know that car I was gonna buy?"

Uh oh. "Yeah?" Dortmunder said. "You were gonna pay five hundred for it, I remember."

"Turns out, at the last minute," A.K.A. said, "it's a real lemon, got unexpected problems. In a word, it won't run."

"And the five hundred?"

"Well, you know, John," A.K.A. said, "I'm not buying the car."

Meet the Author

DONALD E. WESTLAKE has written numerous novels over the past thirty-five years under his own name and pseudonyms, including Richard Stark. Many of his books have been made into movies, including , which became the brilliant film noir Point Blank, and the 1999 smash hit Payback. He penned the Hollywood scripts for The Stepfather and The Grifters, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. The winner of three Edgar awards and a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Donald E. Westlake was presented with The Eye, the Private Eye Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award, at the Shamus Awards.

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