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What's So Funny?by Donald E. Westlake
Synopses & Reviews
In his classic caper novels, Donald E. Westlake turns the world of crime and criminals upside down. The bad get better, the good slide a bit, and Lord help anyone caught between a thief named John Dortmunder and the current object of his intentions. Now Westlake's seasoned but often scoreless crook must take on an impossible crime, one he doesn't want and doesn't believe in. But a little blackmail goes a long way in...What's So Funny?
All it takes is a few underhanded moves by a tough ex-cop named Eppick to pull Dortmunder into a game he never wanted to play. With no choice, he musters his always-game gang and they set out on a perilous treasure hunt for a long-lost gold and jewel-studded chess set once intended as a birthday gift for the last Romanov czar, which unfortunately reached Russia after that party was over.
From the moment Dortmunder reaches for his first pawn, he faces insurmountable odds. The purloined past of this precious set is destined to confound any strategy he finds on the board. Success is not inevitable with John Dortmunder leading the attack, but he's nothing if not persistent, and some gambit or other might just stumble into a winning move.
"In Westlake's diverting 13th John Dortmunder novel (after 2004's Watch Your Back!), the hapless crook gets blackmailed into trying to pull off an impossible heist — stealing a gold chess set originally intended as a gift for the last czar of Russia, but picked up by some U.S. soldiers who were part of an anti-Soviet expeditionary force in 1919 — 1920 and now kept secure in a midtown Manhattan basement vault while various parties dispute its ownership. Dortmunder makes little progress in the book's first half, until he figures out a way to prompt an inquiry that leads to the chess set's being transported downtown — to a location that proves far from secure. As usual, Westlake provides amusing, at times dim-witted dialogue, particularly among the regulars at O.J.'s Bar & Grill on Amsterdam Avenue, and a cast of appealing if often inept cops and robbers. Not every loose end may be tied up, but the ironic resolution will leave both series fans and newcomers satisfied." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Donald E. Westlake gets the last laugh in his comic mystery What's So Funny?, with an ending so laden with irony it almost has you thinking that crime doesn't pay." New York Times
"More characters than at Agincourt, each with a wicked way with a punch line, and a plot twist that lands this firmly in Westlake's own screwball territory." Kikrus Reviews
"Readers new to the Dortmunder series will simply laugh, then head to the library for more." Booklist
"How Dortmunder pulls off another heist will keep readers entertained with characters who feel more like old friends than literary inventions." Library Journal
About the Author
Donald Westlake has written numerous novels during the past 40 years, under his own name and various pseudonyms — most famously Richard Stark. He is generally regarded as the greatest writer of comic mystery of all time. Many of his books have been made into movies, including The Hunter which was filmed first as the noir classic with Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson, and then as Payback starring Mel Gibson. He has won three Edgar Allan Poe Awards, and has been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.
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