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Bad News (John Dortmunder Series #10)

Bad News (John Dortmunder Series #10)

3.5 6
by Donald E. Westlake

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John Dortmunder doesn't like manual labor. So when he gets the offer of money to dig up a grave, he balks . . . then he wonders why Fitzroy Guilderpost, criminal mastermind, wants to pull a switcheroo of two 70-years-dead Indians.


John Dortmunder doesn't like manual labor. So when he gets the offer of money to dig up a grave, he balks . . . then he wonders why Fitzroy Guilderpost, criminal mastermind, wants to pull a switcheroo of two 70-years-dead Indians.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
After publishing What's the Worst Thing That Could Happen?, Donald Westlake sent his hapless hero John Dortmunder on a five-year sabbatical. Bad News provides an ample payoff for all those who eagerly awaited Dortmunder's next caper, being one of Westlake's funniest, most memorably twisted creations.

The book begins when Dortmunder, together with longtime partner-in-crime Andy Kelp, reluctantly agrees to engage in a bit of nocturnal grave robbing. Under the guidance of a pair of shysters named Fitzroy Guilderpost and Irwin Gabel, Dortmunder and Kelp exhume the body of a long-deceased Pottaknobbee tribesman, and replace it with the body of another, carefully chosen Native American corpse. This post-mortem substitution is the lynchpin of a complex scam involving one additional co-conspirator: Little Feather Redcorn, a Las Vegas showgirl willing to risk everything for that one elusive score.

The scam, as devised by Fitzroy and Irwin. is a latter-day riff on the classic Anastasia theme. In this version, Little Feather presents herself as the last surviving member of the Pottaknobbee tribe, a claim aimed at making her the heir to a one third interest in the tribal-operated Silver Chasm Casino. As a hedge against the inevitable demand for DNA testing, the plotters have placed the relocated body of Little Feather's own great-grandfather in a verified Pottaknobbee grave, thus supporting her fraudulent claim with equally fraudulent genetic data.

It's a clever, carefully worked out scenario, and it all goes spectacularly wrong. Once again, Dortmunder's most ingenious efforts fall victim to a typically malign destiny. This time out, the elements of that destiny include a second, badly botched transfer of bodies, a switched headstone, a larcenous pair of casino managers, and a climactic, alcohol-inspired accident. As the narrative progresses from one crisis to the next, Westlake comments, with deadpan accuracy, on subjects ranging from tourism to modern technology, from tribal politics to the endemic stupidity of the average, small-time crook. Along the way, he reintroduces a gallery of familiar characters, among them the massive, intimidating Tiny Bulcher, Stan Murch, the man who can drive anything, and Murch's mom, the quintessential New York City cabdriver.

Like every other entry in the Dortmunder series, Bad News offers several volumes worth of controlled narrative chaos and high good humor. Aficionados of the comic caper novel, please take note: Westlake is at the top of his game, and a good time is virtually guaranteed. (Bill Sheehan)

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).

Publishers Weekly
Hilarious...The best workout your sense of humor will get this millennium...
Marilyn Stasio
Westlake has a genius for comic strategy, and the complications he devises when the casino operators initiate a counterplot to discredit Little Feather have a lunatic brilliance worthy of Abbott and Costello. But Westlake is also a card with characters, and he flashes that talent to terrific effect here with droll profiles of the vulpine lawyers, crooked casino operators, lying petitioners and outraged Indians who file before a beady-eyed judge with a distinct aversion for cases as ''excessively interesting'' as this one. They should all be so excessive.
New York Times Book Review
Like Westlake's previous nine John Dortmunder novels, this book's magic lies more in the characters than in the story itself. Dortmunder is Westlake's comic thief, a guy routinely underestimated who always overcomes his shortcomings in the end. After botching a simple burglary, Dortmunder is talked into helping his buddy Andy Kelp rob a grave for a fast thousand bucks—exactly the amount Dortmunder hoped to score in the burglary gone wrong. Eventually, Kelp and Dortmunder, along with their friend Tiny Bulcher, deal themselves into an elaborate scam headed by Fitzroy Guilderpost, a portly, self-styled master criminal. Guilderpost's original partners-ex-professor Irwin Gabel and Vegas showgirl Little Feather Redcorn (if you didn't know this was a comic novel, you do now)—are less than enthusiastic about their new partners. Westlake has set up a hilarious dance of thieves scheming against one another, each certain that he or she will be the last one standing, holding all the money.
—Randy Michael Signor

(Excerpted Review)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Westlake fans will welcome the return, after a five-year hiatus, of luckless burglar John Dortmunder and his gang of lowlifes from the back room of the O.J. Bar and Grill. In this, perhaps the best Dortmunder novel so far, Andy Kelp, Tiny Bulcher and the Murches (Stan and Mom) join Dortmunder in horning in on another crew's scam cheating two Native American tribes out of one-third of the take from a lucrative Indian casino in upstate New York. Fitzroy Guilderpost, mastermind of the con (and a memorable Westlake creation one hopes to see again), has enlisted Little Feather Redcorn, a Las Vegas card dealer and showgirl, to pose as the last living member of an extinct tribe with a claim to the casino. Unknown to the schemers, the casino managers have been cooking their books and will go to any length to avoid sharing the wealth. As the foes switch dead Indians from grave to grave, seeking to prove or deny Little Feather's tribal membership, Dortmunder plots an impossible and hilarious robbery using a blizzard as an accessory, and comes up with the usual mixed results. Now that Westlake has resumed both the Dortmunder series and (writing as Richard Stark) the Parker novels, his fans again have a choice of the amusing, relatively benign capers of the Dortmunder clan and the cold crimes of the felonious Parker and his endless trail of bloody bodies and blown safes. This latest carries on the Dortmunder tradition and raises it to new standards. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Dortmunder, the man on whom the sun shines only when darkness is what's needed, is back in his tenth comic caper (following 1996's What's the Worst That Could Happen?), and that's good news to his many fans. The original scam involves passing off ex-Vegas showgirl Little Feather Redcorn as the sole survivor of the Pottaknobbee tribe. It is extinct, but, if there were any living representative, said representative would be eligible to share one-third of the earnings of a successful Native American casino operation, and so Little Feather wants in on the action. Once Dortmunder blunders into the arrangement, though, a flurry of dug-up graves and changed headstones ensues (all with the aim of validating Little Feather's legitimacy). Beneath the thin veneer of timeliness offered by references to Native American casinos and DNA testing beats a timeless plot that combines the best elements of the Three Stooges and a Damon Runyon story. That should be good enough for anybody looking for a finely oiled and remarkably sex- and violence-free romp through the graveyards of upper New York State. For all public libraries. Bob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
When's the last time you read a book that made you laugh on every page? If there's a more wryly convoluted mind out there than Westlake's, it has yet to show itself, and it does make the five-year wait between John Dortmunder's lunatic capers (What's the Worst That Could Happen?) seem excruciatingly long. When a little solo heist for a measly thousand bucks' worth of cameras goes belly up, Dortmunder, just trying to make ends meet, joins Andy Kelp in switching coffins in the dead of night in a Queens cemetery for reasons Fitzroy Guilderpost and his co-conspirators Irwin Gabel and Little Feather Redcorn decline to elaborate on-until Dortmunder confiscates their guns and genially insists. The scam? To prove via DNA typing that Vegas showgirl Little Feather is the last surviving member of the Pottaknobbee tribe, hence entitled to a third of the proceeds of the Silver Chasm Gambling Casino, jointly run by the Oshkawas and the Kiotas. The two casino managers, blithely engaged in skimming millions from their fellow tribe members, dislike this idea so heartily that they counter it with a second grave robbery that's foiled by a tombstone switch engineered by Dortmunder but complicated by 24/7 cemetery surveillance, necessitating still another robbery, this one at a historic mansion on the Delaware Water Gap-which leads in turn to wildly funny court proceedings, a pair of nifty double-crosses, and, as in any felony involving Dortmunder, utter chaos, culminating in financial debacle for all. Hilarious. The best workout your sense of humor will get this millennium.

Product Details

Grand Central Publishing
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John Dortmunder Series , #10
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Read an Excerpt

John Dortmunder was a man on whom the sun shone only when he needed darkness. Now, like an excessively starry sky, a thousand thousand fluorescent lights in great rows under the metal roof of this huge barnlike store building came flickering and buzzing and sqlurping on, throwing a great glare over all the goods below, and over Dortmunder, too, and yet he knew this vast Speedshop discount store in this vast blacktop shopping mall in deepest New Jersey, very near Mordor, did not open at ten minutes past two in the morning. That's why he was here.

Speedshop was a great sprawling mass—production retailer stocked mostly with things that weren't worth more than a quarter and didn't cost more than four dollars, but it had a few pricier sections as well. There were a pharmacy and a liquor department and a video shop and an appliance showroom. Most important, from Dortmunder's point of view, there was a camera department, carrying everything from your basic low—price PhD (Push here, Dummy) to advanced computer—driven machines that chose their own angles.

In two Speedshop tote bags, canvas, white, emblazoned in red with the Speedshop slogan: ! SAVE FAST ! at !! SPEEDSHOP !! Dortmunder could fit ten thousand dollars' worth of such high—end cameras, for which he would receive, no questions asked (because the answers are already known), from a fellow in New York named Arnie Albright, one thousand dollars in cash. Ten minutes inside the store, no more, after he'd bypassed the loading dock alarm systems, and he'd be back in the Honda Platoon he'd borrowed forty minutes ago from an apartment complex farther up the highway, and well on his way home to the peace and quiet and safety of New York City.

But, no. As tote bags full of cameras dangled from his bony hands and he loped down the silent, semidark aisles—little night—lights here and there guided him along his way—he was suddenly bathed in this ice—water deluge of a harsh white fluorescent glare.

Okay. There must have been something, some motion sensor or extra alarm he hadn't noticed, that had informed on him, and this big store would be filling up right this second with many police officers, plus, probably, private Speedshop security people, all of them armed and all of them looking, though they didn't know it yet, for John Dortmunder. Didn't know it yet, but soon would.

What to do? First, drop these bags of cameras behind a kids' sneaker display rack. Second, panic.

Well, what else? He'd come in from the loading docks at the back, which they surely knew, so they would come in from the back as well, but they would also come in from the front. And they would leave guards at every entrance, while the rest of them fanned out to search inexorably forward like volunteer Boy Scouts in pursuit of a lost hiker. Any second now, groups of them would appear at the ends of aisles, visible far away. And he would be just as visible to them.

Hide? Where? Nowhere. The shelves were packed full and high. If this were a traditional department store, he could at least try to pretend to be a mannequin in the men's clothing section, but these discount places were too cheap to have full entire mannequins. They had mannequins that consisted of just enough body to drape the displayed clothing on. Pretending to be a headless and armless mannequin was just a little too far beyond Dortmunder's histrionic capabilities.

He looked around, hoping at least to see something soft to bang his head against while panicking, and noticed he was just one aisle over from the little line of specialty shops, the pharmacy and the hair salon and the video rental and the optician.

The optician.

Could this possibly be a plan that had suddenly blossomed like a cold sore in Dortmunder's brain? Probably not, but it would have to do.

As the individual all those legislators most specifically had in mind when they enacted their three—strikes—you're—out life—imprisonment laws, Dortmunder felt that any plan, however loosely basted together, had to be better than simple surrender. His wallet tonight contained several dubious IDs, including somebody's credit card, so, for almost the first time in his life, he made use of a credit card in a discount store, swiping it down the line between door and jamb leading to the optician's office, forcing the striker back far enough so he could push open the glass door in the glass wall and enter.

It wasn't until after the door snicked shut again behind him that he realized there were no knobs or latches on its inside. This door could only be opened or closed or locked or unlocked from the outside, because the fire laws required it to be propped open anytime the place was open for business. Trapped! he thought, but then he thought, wait a second. This just adds whadayacallit. Verisimilitude. Unless that's the color.

The optician's shop was broad and narrow, with the front glass wall facing the rest of Speedshop, plus white walls at sides and back, liberally decorated with mirrors and with color photographs of handsome people with bad eyesight. A glass counter and display case full of spectacle frames faced the door, and little fitting tables with mirrors and chairs stood to both sides. Against each side wall was a small settee where customers could sit and wait for their prescriptions to be filled, with magazines stacked on a nearby table. The light in here at this time of night was only the long, dim bulbs inside the display racks, mostly showing the frames on the glass shelves.

Dortmunder dashed around the end of the counter and found the cash register, which for once he didn't want. But under it was the credit card swiper, which he did want. He found the blank receipts, swiped one with the credit card he'd used on the door, filled in the receipt with some stuff—$139.98, that seemed like a good number—looked at the name on the credit card, and signed it more or less the way it looked on the back: Austin Humboldt.

Customer copy, customer copy; here it is. Glancing at the windows across the way—no cops out there yet—he pocketed the customer copy, found the stack of used receipts under the cash register, and added Austin Humboldt's near to but not at the top of the pile. Out of his wallet and into his shoes went all the IDs not named Humboldt. Then he started around the counter again.

Wait a minute. If he was buying glasses, he was somebody who'd wear glasses, right? A display on the rear wall was two—thirds full of glasses; he grabbed a pair at random, slapped them on, and realized he was looking through nothing. No glass, just frames.

Try it? No; up close, it would be obvious, and he had the feeling he'd be inspected up close very soon now.

Time, time, time—there was no time for all this. Down to his left, another display of glasses, and these bounced dim light at him from a hundred lenses. He lunged down there, praying they wouldn't be blind—as—a—bat prescription specs, threw on a pair of delicate but manly tortoiseshell frames, and looked through glass. Clear glass, clear. Okay! Now he could run around the counter, collapse onto the nearest settee—it wasn't very comfortable—grab a three—month—old People from the little table, open it facedown on his lap, and flop, eyes closed.

It took them three minutes to find him. He slumped there, unmoving, telling himself to relax, telling himself, if worse came to worst, he could probably eventually escape from prison, and then he heard the rattling of the metal knob on the glass door.

Don't react, he told himself. Not yet, it's too soon. You need your sleep.

Banging and knocking on the glass door and the plate—glass wall. Indistinct, muffled shouting.

Dortmunder started, like a horse hearing a pistol shot, and stared around at the optician's shop, at the magazine sliding off his lap, and at last at the glass wall, which had become an active mural of cops peering in at him, staring pressing faces to the glass, waving and yelling—a horrible sight.

And now he realized these glasses he'd put on were not exactly clear lenses, not exactly. They were some kind of magnifiers, reading glasses or whatever, which made everything just a little larger than usual, a little closer than usual. He not only had this horrible mural of Your Police In Action in front of him, he had them in his lap.

Too late to change. Just stagger forward and hope for the best. He jumped to his feet. He ran to the door, reaching for the nonexistent knob, bruising his knuckles against the chrome frame surrounding the glass, because it wasn't exactly where he saw it, then licked his knuckles. Cops crowded close out there, the other side of the glass, calling, intensely staring.

Dortmunder stopped licking his knuckle to show them his most baffled face. He spread his hands, then pointed at the door, then made a knob—turning gesture, then shrugged like Atlas with an itch.

They didn't get it yet. They kept yelling at him to open up. They kept pointing at the door as though he didn't know where it was. He did his little repertoire of gestures some more, and then two of them, one at the door and one at the wall next to the door, pressed their faces to the glass, so that they now looked like fish in police uniforms, and squinted to try to see the inside of the door.

Now they got it. And now Dortmunder, once they understood he was locked in here—it's a locked—room mystery!—began to exhibit signs of panic. He'd been feeling panic all along; it was nice to be able to show it, even though under false colors.

He bobbed back and forth along the wall, waving frantically, gesturing with great urgency that they should release him. He pointed at his watch—do you people realize what time it is?—he mimed making rapid phone calls—I got responsibilities at home!—he tried to tear his hair, but it was too wispy to get a grip on.

Now that he was excited, the cops all became calm. They patted the air at him, they nodded, they made walkie—talkie calls, they came close to the glass to mouth, Take it easy. Easy for them to say.

It took them fifteen minutes to unlock the door; apparently, none of them was a good credit risk. While more and more of them, cops and rent—a—cops both, came streaming in from all the aisles of Speedshop to stare into this one—man zoo, Dortmunder kept ranting and raving in pantomime, flinging his arms about, stomping back and forth. He even ran around behind the counter and found the phone, intending to call his faithful companion, May, sleeping peacefully at home in their nice little apartment on West Nineteenth Street—would he ever see it again?—just so the cops could see the frantic husband was calling his worried wife, but a recorded announcement told him he could make only local calls from that phone, which was even better. Let May sleep.

At last, another team of cops arrived, with special vinyl jackets in dark blue to show they were supercops and not just trash cops like all these other guys and gals, and they had several strange narrow metal tools with which they had at the door.

God, they were slow. Dortmunder was just looking around for a helpful brick when at last the door did pop open and maybe twenty of them came crowding in.

"I gotta call my wife!" Dortmunder yelled, but everybody else was yelling, too, so nobody could hear anybody. But then it turned out there actually was someone in authority, a gruff, potbellied older guy in a different kind of important uniform, like a blue army captain, who roared over everybody else, "That's enough! Pipe down!"

They piped down, surprisingly enough, all of them except Dortmunder, who, in the sudden silence, once again shouted, "I gotta call my wife!"

The man in charge stood in front of Dortmunder as though he were imitating a slammed door. "Name," he said.

Name. What was that name? "Austin Humboldt," Dortmunder said.

"You got identification?"

"Oh, sure."

Dortmunder pulled out his wallet, nervously dropped it on the floor—he didn't have to pretend nervousness, not at all—picked it up, and handed it to the boss cop, saying, "Here it is, you look at it, I'm too jumpy, my fingers aren't working."

The cop didn't like handling this wallet, but he took it, opened it up, and then spent a couple minutes looking at several documents the real Austin Humboldt would be reporting stolen six hours from now. Then, handing the wallet back, waiting while Dortmunder dropped it again and picked it up again and returned it to his pocket, he said, "You broke into this building half an hour ago, came in here, got locked in. What were you after?"

Dortmunder gaped at him. "What?"

"What were you after in this shop?" the cop demanded.

Dortmunder stared around at all the displayed eyeglass frames. "My glasses!" "You break into a store at—"

"I didn't break in!"

The cop gave him a jaundiced look. "The loading dock just happened to be open?"

Dortmunder shook his head, a man besieged by gnats. "What loading dock?" "You came in through the loading dock—"

"I did not!"

Another look. "Okay," the cop decided, "suppose you tell me what happened."

Dortmunder rubbed his brow. He scuffed his shoes on the industrial carpet. He stared at his feet. "I don't know what happened," he said. "I must of fell asleep."

A different cop said, "Captain, he was asleep when we got here." He pointed at the settee. "Over there."

"That's right," said several other cops. "Right over there." They all pointed at the settee. Outside the plate glass, some of the other cops pointed at the settee, too, without knowing why.

The captain didn't like this at all. "Asleep? You broke in here to sleep?"

"Why do you keep saying," Dortmunder answered, drawing himself up with what was supposed to be an honest citizen's dignity, "I broke in here?"

"Then what did you do?" the captain demanded.

"I came in to get my prescription reading glasses," Dortmunder told him. "I paid for them, with a credit card, two pair, sunglasses and regular, and they told me to sit over there and wait. I must have fell asleep, but how come they didn't tell me when my glasses were ready?" Looking around, as though suddenly realizing the enormity of it all, he cried, "They left me here! They walked out and locked me in and left me here! I could of starved!"

The captain, sounding disgusted, said, "No, you couldn't of starved. They're gonna open again in the morning, you can't starve overnight."

"I could get damn hungry," Dortmunder told him. "In fact, I am damn hungry, I never had my dinner." Struck by another thought, he cried, "My wife is gonna kill me, I'm this late for dinner!"

The captain reared back to study his prisoner. "Let me get this straight," he said. "You came in here earlier today—"

"Around four this afternoon. Yesterday afternoon."

"You bought two pairs of glasses, you fell asleep, and you want me to believe the staff left without seeing you and locked you in. And it was just coincidence that somebody else broke into this building tonight." "Somebody broke in?"

Nobody answered; they all just kept looking at him, looming outside these glasses, so finally Dortmunder said, "How often does that happen, somebody breaks in here?"

The captain didn't deign to answer. Dortmunder looked around, and another, younger cop said, "Not a lot." But he sounded defensive.

"So it happens," Dortmunder said.

"Sometimes," the younger cop admitted, while the captain glowered at this underling, not pleased.

Dortmunder spread his hands. "So what kind of a coincidence is that?" The captain leaned closer; now the glasses made him look like a tank with eyes. "How did you pay for these glasses? Cash?"

"Of course not." Now the damn glasses slipped down his nose, and he finger—pushed them back, a little too hard. Oow. Blinking, eyes watering, which didn't help, "I used my credit card," he said.

"So the receipt should still be here, shouldn't it?"

"I dunno."

"Let's just see," the captain said, and turned to one of his flunky cops to say, "Look for it. The credit card slip."

"Yes, sir."

Which took about a minute and a half. "Here it is!" said the cop, pulling it out of the stack he'd placed on the counter.

In stunned disbelief, the captain said, "There's a credit card slip there?"

"Yes, sir."

Dortmunder, trying to be helpful, said, "I've got my copy in my pocket, if you want to see it."

The captain studied Dortmunder. "You mean, you really did come in here this afternoon and fall asleep?"

"Yes, sir," Dortmunder said.

The captain looked angry and bewildered. "It can't be," he insisted. "In that case, where's the burglar? He has to be in the building."

One of the rent—a—cops, an older guy with his own special uniform with stripes and epaulets and stars and awards and things on it to show he was an important rent—a—cop, a senior rent—a—cop, cleared his throat very loudly and said, "Uh, Captain."

The captain lowered an eyebrow at him. "Yeah?"

"The word went out," the senior rent—a—cop said, "that the burglar was caught."

The captain got that message right away. "You're telling me," he said, "no one's watching the exits."

"Well, the word was," the senior rent—a—cop said, "he was, you know, caught."

Dortmunder, honest but humble, said, "Captain, would you mind? My wife's gonna be really, really, really irritated, I mean, she doesn't like me to be ten minutes late for dinner, you know, and—"

The captain, furious at everybody now, snapped, "What? What do you want?"

"Sir," Dortmunder said, "could you give me a note for my wife?"

"A note!" The captain looked ready to punch a whole lot of people, starting with Dortmunder. "Gedaddahere!"

"Well, okay," Dortmunder said.

Copyright (c) 2001 by Donald E. Westlake

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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Bad News (John Dortmunder Series #10) 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i haven't read this dortmunder book,,,i've read all the previous ones...why the heck is this one $14.99???
harstan More than 1 year ago
After he escapes from his own failed Jersey robbery attempt, John Dortmunder reluctantly agrees to join his friend Andy Kelp on a caper. Fitzroy Guilderpost, Irwin Gabel, and Little Feather Redcorn hire Andy and John to dig up the coffin of a deceased Native American and replace it with a dead relative of Little Feather. Before Fitzroy and Irwin can kill the duo, John and Andy leave with a corpse.

Several weeks later during Thanksgiving dinner, Fitzroy calls Andy to arrange a new deal. They meet at Jones Beach where Tiny Bulcher accompanies Andy and John who demand in on the caper. Forced to concede, they explain how they plan to obtain a share of a successful upstate New York Indian casino. Everyone agrees to the new terms, but neither side trusts the other. The edge belongs to John and his cohorts because they stand together as one unit while the other team remains divided.

The good news is that Dortmunder and friends are back in an exciting caper. The BAD NEWS is that readers will now have to wait for the next tale of what is perhaps the funniest mystery series on the market today. The story line is amusing and entertaining as John and his team engages in a battle of wits and fights with Fitzroy¿s finest. The support cast adds to the feel that these thieves are genuine individuals whose GOOD BEHAVIOR proves NOBODY¿S PERFECT. Clearly THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN to fans of a light but taut mystery novel is to miss Donald E. Westlake¿s superior book, series, and other works.

Harriet Klausner

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Guest More than 1 year ago
The premise for this crime caper is an excellent one. If DNA tests don't lie, how can you beat one? Donald E. Westlake takes that idea and turns it in every possible way, and the results bring some very serious fun. At its best, this book is vintage Donald Westlake and John Dortmunder. At its worst, Bad News hints at the best but definitely falls short. Dortmunder's development of a plan and the final resolution are both well below Mr. Westlake's best. As usual in the series, the book opens with John Dortmunder having unexpected trouble with an effort to burgle a discount store to raise a little extra cash. As always, he uses his quick wits and preparation to escape. But the original plan and effort seem well beneath his best thinking. Through the Internet, Andy Kelp gets John involved with two men (Fitzroy Guilderpost and Irwin Gabel) and a woman (Shirley Ann Farroff, a.k.a. Little Feather Redcorn) who are putting a scam together. Andy and John are hired to do the heavy lifting, but soon cut themselves into the deal. In a few weeks, they are deep into the geneology of the Pottaknobbee tribe as a way to make a run at the Silver Chasm Casino on Native American land in upstate New York. The only trouble is, there's not much for John to do. He finds it very boring. What's even worse, that makes him nervous, ' . . . [T]he problem is, everything's going too easy.' Although they are all partners (including Tiny Bulcher), it really seems like they are really two partnerships in competition to cut each other out of the deal (and possibly even cut down each other as well). Suddenly, all bets are off and John has five days to pull a rabbit out of the hat. In a remarkably inventive subplot, he does. You'll enjoy this part as much as any Dortmunder book you've read before. As usual, the ultimate payoff isn't quite as big or as soon as Dortmunder had hoped. But he feels better about himself. Now, that's worth something, isn't it? On the other hand, if you've read all the Dortmunder novels and loved them, you should be sure to read this one. It's good enough to provide for a pleasant reading experience. After you read this book, think about other places where technology seems to hold all of the answers. Where will it not work? Look for the reality behind the appearance in everything you do! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution