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Burglars Can't Be Choosers (Bernie Rhodenbarr #1)

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3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,776 Ratings  ·  271 Reviews
The first in the Bernie Rhodenbarr series by multiple-award winner Block has Bernie underestimating the difficulty of breaking into a posh East Side apartment to steal a blue leather-covered box. No box, dead body, bum murder rap. Not so easy. The New York Times Book Review has called the Rhodenbarr books, "A witty series. Bernie is incorrigibly adorable. Between his inqui ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 181 pages
Published 1977 by Random House
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Lori S. Does it really matter? The one I'm reading makes him seem a pleasant sort, who can sort of blend in with the crowd (appropriate for a thief), who…moreDoes it really matter? The one I'm reading makes him seem a pleasant sort, who can sort of blend in with the crowd (appropriate for a thief), who would be interesting to talk to, but I, personally, don't think it's important to know what he looks like.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder*

“Imaginative persons could probably find interesting things to do with handcuffs and a nightstick.”

Cozies are fun, but every genre needs variety to stay interesting for the reader. The same old can get ... well, old after awhile. This book delivers that twist by having the main character be an unapologetic cat burglar who opens the book breaking into an apartment, enjoying it, and then getting caught up in a far worse crime.

It may be morally wrong, but the quirk works, especially since Bernie
...more
Greg
Mar 25, 2013 Greg rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I almost gave this two stars. But it wasn't bad like most of the books I give two stars. It just wasn't a very good Lawrence Block book.

I can easily imagine, and I'm sure I've really enjoyed some books in this genre. But my last two forays into it have been less than satisfying, and both times by writers that I expect a whole lot of satisfaction from.

I guess I should say what the genre is. An 'innocent' man is wrongly suspected of a crime and he has to remedy the situation. Or maybe the sub-ge
...more
Kemper
Professional burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr gets hired to steal a blue box from an apartment, but the police bust in and catch him just after he breaks in. The good news is that one of the cops is crooked, and it looks like he’ll be able to buy his way out of the arrest. The bad news is that the cops find the apartment owner’s body in the bedroom so the bribing option just went bye-bye. Bernie flees and manages to hide out in the apartment of a friend he knows is out of town, but he’s a wanted man wi ...more
Tfitoby
Mar 01, 2013 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: whodunnit, funny
Block's dialogue crackles like an overheard conversation in a New York bar in this lighthearted debut outing for gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr.

Lawrence Block has been a revelation to me this year, his work have been some of the highlights of my reading experience in 2012 but nothing prepared me for Bernie Rhodenbarr. I've become accustomed to the darker side of Block through Matt Scudder and the incredibly bleak Grifter's Game but Bernie lets his lighter side shine, always ready with a wit
...more
Arun Divakar
There are many a variant of detective fiction that any bibliophile will come across in their journeys across the landscapes of mystery and thrills. There is the much adored closed room mystery of the Brits, the police procedural of the Americans, the haunted detective of the...of the...hmm...of the somewhere ! and so on and so forth. Some of the ones that I have read have tended to put me off reading these genre for repeated use makes them stale. I think there are some which tend to dilute the c ...more
Dan Schwent
Bernie Rhodenbarr breaks into an apartment while the owner is out to steal a blue leather box and make a quick five large. Only the apartment owner is home and quite dead, and the cops burst in while Bernie is there. Bernie goes on the run and sets out to clear his name with the help of an oddly helpful girl named Ruth. Can Bernie clear his name before he is apprehended for murder?

Lawrence Block put together an interesting mystery in this one, one involving actors, actresses, blackmail, and dirt
...more
Andrew Smith
Jul 04, 2012 Andrew Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in the series, but it's the last book I've read; I seem to have read the whole series in a totally random order. There are, I think, ten books in all, plus a few short stories. They all have basically the same plot. Boring? No, far from it. I love the characters in this series, it's light and funny and in Bernie Rhodenbarr I think he's created one of the very best. About time for an addition to the series I think, LB.
Lance Charnes
Jul 03, 2015 Lance Charnes rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of near-cozy mysteries with reprobate heroes
Readers wanting to follow the exploits of a bad-boy lead character usually have to choose between hit men, fixers, or other hard cases who generally seek to solve problems through the application of force. Back in the late 1970s, however, Lawrence Block introduced a less-bad bad boy: gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, who debuted in this novel just a year after Block's other best-known series character, alcoholic ex-cop Matthew Scudder.

In this story, Bernie accepts a job burgling an Upper East
...more
Jim
Block has a very low-key voice in his books & this audio was well done by Adams Morgan - the voice fits Bernie Rhodenbarr perfectly. Bernie is a nice guy who is just trying to get by in NYC like everyone else. His profession is as a burglar & he's a pretty good one, well liked by his neighbors ("Who cares if you take from the rich east side? You don't steal around here.") & the cops, who know he is reasonable about splitting profits.

He has a good thing going until his job is connect
...more
Richard White
Call me crazy but I've decided to re-read the entire burglar series. Started this one at 9:00 A.M. this morning, finished at 4:00 P.M. this afternoon. Trust me, Block is that good. If you read my profile I make no apologies for promoting Lawrence Block. If you haven't read him yet you really should.
Ensiform
Mar 25, 2013 Ensiform rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
Bernie Rhodenbarr, a dapper and skilled burglar with a taste for fine things and no propensity for violence, is found by the police in a Manhattan apartment which is not his own, with the legal occupant in the next room bludgeoned to death. He flees the scene and hides out in a friend’s building, where he meets a suspiciously helpful girl who urges him to find the real killer. Tracking down the man who apparently framed him, Bernie gets caught up in a scheme involving blackmail, kinky sex, and l ...more
Eric
May 04, 2012 Eric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hardcore Lawrence Block fans
I'm glad I read Block's Burglar in the Library, an adventure of Bernie Rhodenbarr's that happens later in the series, first. If I had read this book, which is the first in the series, first, I likely never would have picked up any others in it. So now I'm torn, because this book was okay at best, but I really liked the later other one. Guess I'll have to read the second in the series and see if it is the more refined Rhodenbarr that I met later in the series, instead of this rough-around-the-edg ...more
Olga Godim
Apr 17, 2013 Olga Godim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
Bernie is a burglar, and he doesn’t hide the fact, although he doesn’t advertise it either. In this novel, he tells his story with close attention to details, dry humor, and panache worthy of the best of mystery writers.
Usually, Bernie works alone, but this time he took a job offered by a vaguely menacing, pear-shaped stranger. Stealing a blue box out of an empty apartment for 5K seemed like easy money, especially for an experienced thief, but when Bernie gets into the apartment, all his plans
...more
Gabriel
Mar 31, 2012 Gabriel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So I heard Lawrence Block's book on writing, Telling Lies For Fun and Profit was good (it is) and picked it up and started reading. Almost at the same time, my school library had withdrawn THREE of the Bernie Rhodenbarr books so I thought, why not read some of the fiction written by this man? And I have.

This is Bernie #1 (a nice place to start, though the others I have are #3 and #5) and we are introduced to the nice, young man as he is in the process of robbing someone. Of course the police int
...more
Michael
Nov 04, 2015 Michael rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 2015
Sometimes some lightweight reading is required and Block's pleasant and personable gentleman thief seemed like just the right guy for the job. Some snappy clever lines doesn't really make up for the sheer weight of all the interminable exposition. What action there is takes place in various apartments and doesn't quite take me away to a more exciting life, as I sit alone in a similar apartment endeavouring to entertain myself without resorting to alphabetizing my tinned soup.
Matt
Jun 06, 2015 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, crime
A clever story that manages to create a lot of twists with a small cast. Rhodenbarr himself isn't as engaging as either Scudder or Keller, so far, but I enjoyed this enough to give him a least one more chance to grow on me.
Leon Aldrich
Mar 30, 2012 Leon Aldrich rated it really liked it
I won't know how much I like this series from Block until I read second one or possibly third in this group.

Maybe because its more mystery than thriller? I lean towards the faster paced, edgy fiction. And this one was a slow boil to a delightful ending.
Renee
Jul 14, 2012 Renee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I bought this book while it was on sale at Amazon; I'd never read it and it was Block's introduction to Bernie Rhodenbarr -- burglar extraordinaire. There it sat, on my Kindle, until I was in NYC and had finished reading the e-books I borrowed from the library. Not wanting to venture out into the heat to buy a hard-copy book, I reached onto my virtual shelf to see what Bernie had to say.

Bernie said a lot. ;)

I fell in love with Bernie by the end of the first page, if not the first paragraph. He h
...more
Monnie
Jan 03, 2014 Monnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never been a huge fan of Lawrence Block's work, but when Goodreads friend James Thane (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show... Block's series featuring professional thief Bernie Rhodenbarr - a series I knew nothing about - I was intrigued. Since James suggested starting with the first book (almost always my preference anyway), I decided to give this one a go. By the time I finished, I'd turned into the Energizer Bunny: I'm going to keep on going, and going and going till I read them all.

Ca
...more
Mike
Dec 30, 2012 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun lighthearted mystery with a bit of an edge. This is the first book in Lawrence Block's Burglar series which feature the criminal activities and subsequent misadventures of gentleman burglar Bernard G. Rhodenbarr - Bernie the Burglar.

It all starts when Bernie's hired by an odd little man he doesn't know - but who knows him - to retrieve an item from someone's apartment while they aren't home. Simple enough task for someone with Bernie's skills. Except when the police catch him in the act...
...more
Mike
Apr 26, 2016 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, fiction, crime
A 3 Star quickie, throwback to the '70's when you needed a phone book to find out how to call someone. Bernie is a "professional" burglar and takes pride in it. No violence, only hit up the folks who can afford to lose. Much fun, some good twists and some clean, off the stage sex. You know, back when romantic trysts were hinted at, had to use your imagination, no full frontal exposure! Take a few hours off and pick this one up.
Mary
Jan 01, 2011 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read much mystery, but the end seemed a little messy with all of its complicated plans to reveal every single person involved in the murder.
Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Bernie's wit is entertaining, and his morals as a career burglar are intriguing. Block keeps making me forget the characters I'm rooting for are thieves and corrupt officers.
(the consensus on the characters' part was that it was all right so long as wealthy people were the ones losing out.)
Block seems
...more
Rick
Jun 11, 2012 Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I picked up this Kindle version on sale at Amazon, I couldn't recall whether this was one I had already read. Within the first few pages, I realized this is the first Bernie Rhodenbarr book, making it, as far as I remember, the first Lawrence Block book I ever read. Ages ago. I'll respect Mr Block (and myself) enough not to specify exactly how many ages that might be.

I highly enjoyed revisiting this old friend. I had largely forgotten the easy grace with which Mr Block turns a phrase, makin
...more
Sheila
Oct 21, 2014 Sheila rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Professional burglar Bernie gets set up as a murderer. He has to figure out who really did the deed. Funny, sarcastic attitude.
Mary Sue
Mar 24, 2016 Mary Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in the second series of Lawrence Block books I have read. I love that our hero is indeed a really bad boy. Bernie Rhodenbarr is a burglar, hired to access the interior of an apartment and retrieve a blue leather (or leather covered) box containing something of value. Bernie is good at picking locks. He is also good at the flight part of "fight or flight" reaction. While searching for the blue box he is interupted by two policemen. One of them is an old friend of Bernie's a ...more
Alison
Sep 24, 2015 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Fun read. Second favorite Lawrence Block character. Will read more of these.
Jaclyn
Jul 05, 2015 Jaclyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I read the jacket blurbs and wondered if I had the book in hand they referred to. It's an OK read, but hilarious? No. Not unless my sense of humour has changed so much as to be unrecognisable. It's an OK read, but no more than that. It's like watching the old "Rockford Files" TV show, or any of the dozen "light private eye" series of the late sixties and early seventies. The only thing missing was Bernie doesn't get jumped and beaten up by someone lying in wait in his apartment (or the one he's ...more
Glen
Nov 08, 2015 Glen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This is the first entry in the Bernie Rhodenbarr series, all of which have "Burglar in their titles.

Bernie Rhodenbarr is a young-ish man about town, whose occupation happens to be that of a burglar. When a stranger hires him to burgle an apartment and retrieve a blue box, he complies, and finds himself face to face with a pair of cops. Fortunately, one of them happens to be more than a nodding acquaintance of Bernies. Funds change hands, and Bernie is on his way out, when a corpse is discovered.
...more
Wing Kee
When I picked up this book I was expecting a noirish fun caper story and I was not disappointed. In this, the first of a series of book's by Block for the Bernie character, we are introduced to Bernie Rhodenbarr Gentleman Thief. Here are some thoughts:

1) Bernie is fun, he's witty, funny, and has an air of confidence about him. He is very unlike the other noir books I read where the protagonist is a miserable, bitter, angry, chain smoking, brooding ghost of a man. Here as in mose noir and hard bo
...more
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17613
Received the Shamus Award, "The Eye" (Lifetime achievment award) in 2002.

From his web site:

I'm told every good author website needs a bio, so here's mine:

"Lawrence Block's novels range from the urban noir of Matthew Scudder (A Drop of the Hard Stuff) to the urbane effervescence of Bernie Rhodenbarr (The Burglar on the Prowl), while other characters include the globe-trotting insomniac Evan Tanne
...more
More about Lawrence Block...

Other Books in the Series

Bernie Rhodenbarr (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • The Burglar in the Closet (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #2)
  • The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #3)
  • The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #4)
  • The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #5)
  • The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #6)
  • The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #7)
  • The Burglar in the Library (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #8)
  • The Burglar in the Rye (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #9)
  • The Burglar on the Prowl (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #10)
  • The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (Bernie Rhodenbarr, #11)

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“I stood for a moment, letting my ears do the walking, and then I gave the bell a thorough ring and waited thirty thoughtful seconds before ringing it again.
And that, let me assure you, is not a waste of time. Public institutions throughout the fifty states provide food and clothing and shelter for lads who don't ring the bell first.”
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