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The Road to Ruin    by Donald E. Westlake order for
Road to Ruin
by Donald E. Westlake
Order:  USA  Can
Mysterious Press, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

Put yourself, just for a moment, in John Archibald Dortmunder's shoes. You try your best to be a success, but every venture turns to failure. You've tried stealing a precious gemstone, you've tried kidnapping, you've tried stealing a bank (not robbing it, stealing it outright), you've even tried conning some native Americans out of some casino money; but ain't none of it worked out like you planned it.

So here comes a plan that seems foolproof. A disgraced corporate CEO is looking for household staff, so you and a bunch of your associates hire on. Working from the inside, you're going to relieve the guy of his valuable automobile collection, and whatever goodies you can pile in them before you drive them away. No fuss, no muss.

I'm sure you know what happens next: the plan falls apart in a spectacular (and spectacularly funny) way. Westlake practically invented the comic caper novel -- all right, that's an exaggeration, but not by much -- and there's no one better at them than he is. There have been a few movies based on the Dortmunder novels. Only one of them, The Hot Rock, is any good, although casting the dashing Robert Redford as Dortmunder was a little odd. (The latest film adaptation, I believe, was the recent What's The Worst That Could Happen? Some idiot decided Martin Lawrence would make a good Dortmunder. That's like casting Eddie Murphy as Willy Loman.) For some reason, moviemakers can't adequately capture Westlake's nimble wit, his linguistic shenanigans, his abundant playfulness. If you're a fan of the Dortmunder novels, you'll be pleased to know this one's just as superb as its predecessors.

If you've never met Dortmunder, what can I say? Oh, the treats you've been missing ...

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