John Dortmunder and company are hired by an U.N. African Ambassador to steal the famed Balabomo Emerald from the hands of a rival African country. But their daring and clever burglarly goes awry, and the emerald slips through their fingers. Undaunted, Dortmunder chases the gem by plane, train and automobile in hot pursuit of the hot rock.
Listen to another Dortmunder caper.
©1970 Donald E. Westlake (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"Westlake's novel comes awesomely close to the ultimate in comic, big-caper novels; it's so filled with…action and imagination." (New York Times Book Review)
"Westlake is a master hand at the running gag….This Westlake brought on such a case of the laughing bends that I required decompression." (Washington Post)
All-Time Top 100 Mysteries (Mystery Writers of America)
I don't know that I'd listen to it again in a hurry, just because the plot isn't so subtle that you really need to re-read (or re-listen) again in a hurry. However, once I've had time to forget some specifics, I think it would be fun to re-listen.
It's one long series of near-misses that never quite veers into the slapstick. I enjoy that, and the heists planned by the characters are ingenious (and therefore delightful)
I think the narrator did a particularly good job with Stan Murch.
A quick aside on accents--other reviews have taken the narrator to task for having a 'Pakistani-sounding' couple of African characters. I disagree with them. I've never been to Pakistan, but I've lived, studied, visited, and worked in multiple African countries on different regions of the continent (as well has having friends from different areas as well), and the characters' accents to me sounded completely reasonable as approximations of East African accents. (Many of which are influenced by emigration from Southeast Asia)
It would have been fine to listen to all in one sitting, but I split it up over a week.
The reason I gave this book less than 5 entire stars was because there's some racist/racist-leaning (as well as some sexist)language. (Africans are referred to as "ebony-colored" and "colored", for example). The book is a product of its time, and I understand that, but I'm not an apologist. The reason I gave it four stars instead of five is that I'm also not in favor of retroactively editing/censoring past works. Be warned--for all its lighthearted capering and absurdist, deadpan humor--the book talks about non-whites and non-women in a decidedly non-modern way.
"To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.” -- Somerset Maugham
Really? Not Again! -- "How many times does Dortmunder have to steal this thing?" It's a fair question and one that you will be asking yourself throughout the novel.
Well, you can't take it too seriously. Unlike Westlake's Parker novels (written under the name Richard Stark), the Dortmunder novels are penned in a comic vein. The feel is a bit like Ocean's Eleven.
Woodman delivers a great performance. I was constantly chuckling. The characters are well delineated and Westlake's language, as usual, is spot on. Good stuff.
The story is very charming, that it was written in 1970 adds a lovely nostalgia to it. It's not a fast paced thriller, but a cute, funny crime story (it gets funnier the farther you get, I agree with other reviewers that it's a bit bland in the beginning). Not a must-read, but definitely an enjoy-to-read.
Surprisingly though, there aren't a lot of reviews about the narration. Woodman has a very pleasant voice, but his narration is a bit catastrophic, he leaves much of the novel's potential untapped. It's all about the characters and their interplay, but only two or three of the main characters enjoy any depth in the narration. Dortmunder himself is not among them - Woodman endows him with his regular narration voice, which is young and light. There are indications in the text that Dortmunder is actually reluctant and tired and rolling his eyes most of the time. We don't hear any of that through Woodman though. Very sad, a better narrator could have made this raucously funny.
In addition, the African characters have Pakistani accents, which is hard to handle.
I haven't laughed out loud reading a book in a long time. I had read Bank Shot, the second in the Dortmunder series, long ago but had forgotten just how funny and talented a writer Donald Westlake was. I especially appreciated the conversations where the long suffering Dortmunder has to deal with his cronies taking all too literally what he is saying. I can just see Dortmunder shaking his head in disbelief at some of the responses he gets to simple queries. And when you thought the story should be over, there is nothing more to settle, things take a turn for the worse and the gang has to saddle up yet again. I will definitely complete the Dortmunder series and then explore other Westlake offerings.
As good an experience as any.
From the scene on which the first chapter ends, with the protagonist raising his hands and screaming, I knew I was in good hands.
No, but this was excellent.
No, but there were several occasions at which I laughed aloud, which, considering I was next to my sleeping wife, is impressive.
Jeff Woodman's characterization of the several different voices, even the few women - all sounded natural and just like themselves. I read this book as a teenager in the 70's, and remembered it always as one of the funniest things I have ever read. It's very like The Pink Panther movies in its Murphyesque silliness. A classic.
Kelp made a great straight man.
The jail break in. Even the several added bit characters had their own unique, but natural voices, and the action was totally ridiculous and yet pretty easy to believe.
They did make a film, but I never saw it - I was afraid they would ruin it.
I'm off to see what else Jeff Woodman may have narrated. I got this book as a Kindle book first, and the Audible at a very reduced price because of this. Jeff Woodman's wonderful reading has persuaded me that Audible just might be as pleasurable as reading for myself.
Say something about yourself!
The writer takes us back to the early 60s for a caper novel with the usual cast of petty criminals. I've never met a more one-dimensional crew. The dialog-heavy style (the novel must be a first draft of a hoped-for-Hollywood screenplay) just highlights the weak writing.
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