Why Me is the fifth book in this series.I’ve read the first three in order, but couldn’t easily get a copy of the fourth novel, Nobody’s Perfect.That’s too bad as some of the later book’s characteristics (e.g. Andy Kelp always letting himself in to John & May’s apartment) must have been established then.
This book has faint echoes of the first one.A large and important gem is stolen, there are nations involved, Tiny reappears, and Dortmunder is in the middle of it all.But the resemblance is only superficial.The story is actually another masterful piece of plotting and writing.Like the other books, there are very strong and colorful characters to act as foils to John and friends.Without them the books would be far less interesting.Think of John & co. as white rice: by itself almost tasteless.Now cook it with some strong seasoning and other things and it becomes a flavorful medley.
This book has plenty of spice:NYC cops, FBI agents, three or four teams of foreign nationals and all of them after the gem and the perpetrator.The police begin an intensive crackdown on the known criminal element.Thousands are pulled in for interrogative.They don’t solve the heist, but they do uncover evidence in a few hundred other cases.Dortmunder’s friends are all grabbed and eventually he is, too.
Things begin to look very bleak for the dour anti-hero.Eventually he decides that he must trust someone and that person is long time friend Andy Kelp (and May, of course).Not only is Kelp sympathetic he also has some newly acquired skills that help them evade capture while setting up a nifty “exit” for John.He manages to convince the top cop investigating the crime to go along with his “solution” and then changes things up with a final twist. Like many of his other jobs, he comes out with nothing much to show for all his hard work except his hide.But he has strengthened his friendship with Andy and is ready to try again.
I continue to be impressed by how different each of these books is.The plots are unique; the antagonists are unique and even the gang show different facets at times.I know that the books were spaced out 2-3-4 years apart and maybe that was because Mr. Westlake wanted to interleave other books (definitely wouldn’t want Parker to go cold).Or maybe it just took that long for the next good idea to evolve.I don’t care and I suspect most readers would not either.This was another quick read and a bit darker than the first three novels.Four (4) well-deserved Stars.
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