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Watch Your Back!: A Dortmunder Novel    by Donald E. Westlake order for
Watch Your Back!
by Donald E. Westlake
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Donald E. Westlake brings us another rollicking criminal roller coaster ride in Watch Your Back! All John Dortmunder wants to do is plan a heist. He sets the usual meeting place with his partners-in-crime, the back room of the O.J. Bar & Grill. But something's off at the O.J.. Rollo the bartender is morose, the back room is unavailable, and Mob heavies lurk in the background.

It all started with the repulsive fence Arnie Albright, who had a makeover at a Caribbean Club Med. While there, Arnie met an even more obnoxious wealthy man, Preston Fareweather, who had lived there for years, avoiding process servers from his ex-wives' attorneys. Arnie wants Dortmunder and crew to rob the plutocrat's luxury New York Fifth Avenue penthouse. They like the idea, but Dortmunder is as concerned about the changes at the O.J. as in planning the operation. In addition to his usual cohorts (like the very large Tiny and Kelp) there's an engaging new character. Nineteen-year-old wannabe crook, Judson Blint, is mostly on the edges of the action, but has a significant role to play before the end.

As we've come to expect of Dortmunder's best laid plans, they go seriously awry. Not only does his crew converge on the penthouse, but so does Fareweather (who's kidnapped from his resort hideaway), the Mob led by the not so sharp Mikey, and the police. The resultant shenanigans are hilarious; the worst of the bad guys get what they deserve; while the likeable villains survive to steal another day, and to hunker in the O.J.'s back room once more. Along the way, readers enjoy lines like these musings of a truck driver: 'The people operating small vehicles in New York, the driver thought, drove as if they all had a lawyer in the backseat.' If you haven't tried a Dortmunder mystery yet, you really should.

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