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What's The Worst That Could Happen? (Dortmunder, #9)
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What's The Worst That Could Happen? (Dortmunder #9)

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  1,077 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
Dortmunder is in the midst of a routine burglary of a Long Island mansion when who shows up toting a gun but the owner, nasty billionaire Max Fairbanks. Worse, Fairbanks takes Dortmunder's supposedly lucky ring. Highly insulted, Dortmunder and his gang execute their own peculiar reign of terror, and although they acquire quite a bit of Fairbanks' swag, they never quite get ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 1st 1997 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 1996)
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Community Reviews

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Mar 01, 2015 Eric_W rated it liked it
Dortmunder is another fine creation of Donald Westlake. He occasionally appears in the Parker stories, but this one is devoted to Dortmunder himself. Things always seem to go wrong and the beginning is no exception. They attempt to burgle a house on Long Island that’s supposed to be empty but it’s a house being used as a trysting place for Fairbanks (pun perhaps?) a thieving executive millionaire and his mistress. He calls the cops and then has the temerity to steal a “lucky” ring off Dortmunder ...more
Sep 07, 2010 Carolyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comedies
Ok, this is another re-read for me, but if you want to bring the new year in right, the best way to guarantee your state of mind is the read stuff you KNOW you enjoy. This is by far the best Dortmunder book Westlake has written to date, and any book that can seemlessly include a 'little second-rate burglary at the Watergate' in its plotline must have been developed by an evil comic genius. 'Nuff said.
Apr 04, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Like many before it, I was inclined to try the “Dortmunder” series by reading Dan’s comments about it. (At least I got that part right.) For some reason, when I went to order a couple of the books, the newest electronic catalog software presented me with only a subset of all of the novels.

(Aside - This is the same software that has claimed the advance interface search string is too long not matter how many characters are in it since Day 1. My attempts to alert the staff librarians to this issue
Jan 17, 2014 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noirboiled
I quite dislike the title of this Dortmunder novel, a question that gets asked several times over the course of the book as if it is a clever refrain: What’s the worst that could happen? The question is ultimately empty, a reference to the sad-sack but light-hearted world of Dortmunder in which the worst never happens. What’s the worst that could happen? Oh, I don’t know, maybe a burglary goes horribly wrong and Dortmunder takes a bullet to the head? Refrains aside, however, this is a good Dortm ...more
Mar 21, 2009 Lynne rated it it was amazing
A fun and wacky read. Another "beach book" to keep you laughing with all the crazy antics of a group of crooks and their shady pals. Westlake keeps the plot moving in so many twists and starts that I finished feeling like I'd been running like a crazy person. Whew! A totally delightful escapist read about people I would never want to know.
Apr 24, 2009 Spiros rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone tickled by the idea of using nitrous to heist a Vegas casino
It was a real struggle for me to purchase this book: I was that put off by the pictures of Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito on the cover. But what could I do? I needed to read a Dortmunder, and this was the only one I could get my hands on. Needless to say, I thoroughy enjoyed it: it's a Dortmunder, after all. Still, it was a struggle.
I am not filing this under my "cinerelated" books, since there's absolutely no chance in hell that I will ever see the movie version. A queasy fascination did caus
Jan 13, 2009 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dortmunder novels always remind me of P. G. Wodehouse novels, except with criminals instead of the landed gentry. Everyone is a damned bumbling fool, and everything is always taking a side trip through Calamity, but in the end the boy gets the girl, or in this case the crook gets the money.

I'm never quite sure if Westlake wrote the Dortmunder novels so that his readers could have fun reading them, or just so that he could have fun writing them, but it works for me either way.
Jan 17, 2009 Amy rated it liked it
He took Dortmunders ring????? His good luck ring???? The scumbag deserves whatever he got. He had it coming!

(I understand the movie of this was so-so- the book is classic Westlake)

From the Publisher
It started with a ring. A cheap ring. The yellow metal said brass, not gold, and the sparkly bits were certainly not diamonds. But the ring belonged to May's horseplaying uncle, who swore it brought good luck. Dortmunder, who wouldn't kick a little good luck out of bed, puts it to the test when he go
Chi Dubinski
Jan 07, 2015 Chi Dubinski rated it it was amazing
John Dortmunder is a burglar, and when a fellow thief proposes a job at a billionaire’s mansion, he agrees. But the mansion, supposedly empty, is occupied, and Dortmunder’s friend takes off when they hear a noise in the house. Dortmunder is nabbed by the cops, and the billionaire claims that the ring on Dortmunder’s finger belongs to him. Dortmunder escapes from police custody, but is irate that his ring was stolen, and vows to get it back.
Westlake is the master of the humorous caper novel.
Jun 04, 2008 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone & everyone :)
This is one of the best Dortmunder books I've read. He goes to rob a rich guys house, not counting on him being home. He holds a gun on poor Dortmunder & calls the cops. When the cops show up, the rich guy adds insult to injury by saying John's "lucky ring" is really his. Word gets out how Dortmunder was robbed, and all the crooks band together to help get his ring back. It's a GREAT book!!!!
Godalmighty, did I love these books as a child. Hilarity abounds -- I still has the world's biggest soft spot for Stan, and every scene in the bar makes me laugh like a dying hyena (the regulars are comedy gold) and I want to cuddle Dortmunder (and May, dear lord, May), but it's pretty thin other than that. Which is fine! Sometimes, you don't want deep and important literature, and when that is the case, a Donald Westlake is never not a good choice.
Jun 18, 2011 Alejandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After a millionaire thwarts a burglar's attempt to rob his property, and dares steal the burglar's ring, luck reverses as he tries to get his ring back. Very funny and quirky read, not sure I would follow the entire series, but I did greatly enjoyed the book. I could not put the book down while reading through the last stunt.
Nov 17, 2011 Roland rated it it was ok
Someone suggested I try the Dortmunder novels since I love Westlake's Parker novels but I found it to be a sore disappointment. It's "funny" in a way that never amused me but Westlake is still a good writer so I can understand why people with a more traditional sense of humor might enjoy it.
Nov 21, 2008 Maurean rated it liked it
Got this in a box of books...its a little beat up, but still readable; just not his best work, IMO (a bit "hokey")....
Dec 16, 2016 Joyce rated it really liked it
Another enjoyable Dortmunder caper ... off to read #10!
Jun 01, 2014 PenNPaper52 rated it really liked it
I discovered this book hidden in a collection of books I had downloaded. I hadn't seen the movie so didn't know what the book would be about. The title was the thing that grabbed my attention. I asked myself, "What is the worst that could happen?" and started reading. The main character is Dortmunder who reminds me of a cat burglar from old black and white movies. He could be played by James Stewart easily I think, the average Joe, with values who steals just because of needs. His loyalty to his ...more
Steven Harbin
Mar 07, 2016 Steven Harbin rated it it was amazing
This is either the 2nd or 3rd time I've read this book, 9th in the Dortmunder series. It was the very first book of the series I ever read, years ago, and remains one of my all time favorites. When the hapless thief John Dortmunder is caught by a rich guy while burglarizing one of said wealthy jerk about the world Max Fairbank's many corporate houses, Dortmunder is prepared to meekly accept the consequences. That is, until Max forces Dortmunder to hand over a ring he is wearing (a gift from his ...more
Jun 22, 2013 Cat. rated it really liked it
I always forget how good a writer Westlake is. His characters are always engaging and his plots are clever. This particular book revolves around Dortmunder, a petty thief who is caught in the act robbing the home of Max Fairbanks, a mega-millionnaire. Fairbanks turns the tables as the police prepare to take the burglar away and says that the only thing stolen was the ring on Dortmunder's hand. In spite of his protests, the police take the ring off Dortmunder's finger and 'return' it to the Fairb ...more
May 27, 2016 Ed rated it really liked it
#9 in the Dortmunder series.

Dortmunder novel - John Dortmunder, taciturn con man, is someone perfectly capable of nursing a grievance. When billionaire hotshot Max Fairbanks, who has caught Dortmunder burgling his Long Island estate, tells the arresting police that the good-luck ring on Dortmunder's finger was stolen from him (when it was in fact a gift from Dortmunder's girlfriend, May), Max's fate, no matter how well protected he may be, is sealed. Dortmunder makes repeated attempts to get his
Aaron Martz
Jan 04, 2016 Aaron Martz rated it really liked it
An endlessly diverting and hilarious crime book, this one strays from the usual Dortmunder formula in that instead of bungling his crimes, he actually gets away with them this time. The only catch is it's not money he's after this time, but a cheap ring one of his victims stole from him, and which he goes to increasingly absurd lengths to get back. The possessor of this ring is an arrogant billionaire who eventually, after his house and his hotel are robbed of hundreds of thousands of dollars of ...more
John Staats
Dec 20, 2012 John Staats rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I cannot imagine anyone who wouldn't enjoy this book. I even suspect the many people I know who hate reading or don't read would find this novel accessible. It's immediately charming, interesting and entertaining in the extreme. I haven't see the Martin Lawrence movie (because it's a Martin Lawrence movie) but prospective readers shouldn't expect the book to be anything like it.

What's The Worst That Could Happen? isn't a high-minded meditation on the human condition, it's a comedy. And as Oscar
Jason Reeser
Jan 25, 2010 Jason Reeser rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yet another home run by the best comic caper writer in the business. Here again is John Dortmunder and his hapless gang, going after a Media Mogul jerk who had the audacity/stupidity to make John Dortmunder mad. Not only did he catch Dortmunder red-handed and turn him over to the police, but he also claimed that the ring on John's finger was stolen, and the police, of course, believed the rich guy and took the ring off John's finger and gave it to the guy. Not a good thing. Now John feels it is ...more
Monkey Paul Wilson
Who says crooks are sentimental? In his 9th book, Dortmunder is foiled (as usual) in an early robbery. The only problem is, his victim steals Dortmunder's lucky $10 ring. What follows is an unusual string of successes for Dortmunder, but given his luck, the lucrative revenge scores fail to retrieve the lucky ring. The book ends in an Oceans 11 style casino caper designed primarily as a distraction for Dortmunder to get his ring back.

This is a really funny entry in the series, especially Dortmun
Apr 05, 2008 John rated it really liked it
Yes, I'm fully aware this book features Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito on the cover, but don't let that deter you. This is one of Westlake's Dortmunder books, about sad sack criminal John Dortmunder. In this novel, Dortmunder is robbing a rich man's summer house. The man happens to be there and steals Dortmunder's ring. Dortmunder decides to focus his energy on getting his ring back, as well as various other items that belong to the rich guy. This series is great: funny, dark, and cynical, Dor ...more
Mar 19, 2011 Marti rated it really liked it
a book group selection--any Dortmunder novel by Donald E. Westlake. This is an author whom I don't recall reading before. Dortmunder is a little off the wall, and so are his many friends, or group, or crew. He is also singleminded, especially after he is caught burglarizing a house, and has the billionaire Max Fairbanks claim a recently gifted "lucky"ring as his own. The lengths that Dortmunder goes to are incredible. He is great at planning his moves, and those of the back-up people. It is funn ...more
Susan Katz
Another entry in my Donald Westlake Memorial Summer reading. This is one of my favorites because Dortmunder, for once, has good luck (after the loss of his lucky ring) though he doesn't see it as such because he's so fixated on getting back his ring from the man who stole it right off his finger. It's also lovely to see so arrogant and unlikeable a villain as Max Fairbanks get such a spectacular comeuppance since real life rarely provides such satisfactions.
Jun 20, 2015 Denise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haven't read any of these before. Westlake can really write, made me laugh out loud even, but I kind of had a bad taste in my mouth after being so expertly manipulated into rooting for the crooks against the evil rich guy. Same way I felt after On the Road: we're not supposed to notice the trail of devastation left by the oh-so-charming rogues. Lineal descendant of The Sting and a stellar example of its type.
One of the best of the Dortmunders

A rollicking trip from start to finish - all the Dortmunder characters, and some new ones. A gang of petty crooks against a billionaire white collar crook. Loved it!

****Warning Spoiler ****

Unlike the usual caper, this one of Dortmunder's complex plans actually works, and he makes some money. The good guy crooks get away, and the bad guy crook gets what's coming to him.
Jun 05, 2014 Gramy added it
John certainly was a very 'lucky' fellow. Max was an egotiscal jerk. None of the women acted like any I know. I had trouble identifying with any of the characters. This was the first book in this series that I read. I realize now that prefer cozy reads with less unnecessary descriptions. Maybe if I had developed a relationship getting to know the characters through the series, I may have been more interested in the current book.
Apr 23, 2008 David rated it liked it
Shelves: completed
This Dortmunder novel was much more fun than the movie (starring Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito) about a burglar who gets caught and the cops remove his "lucky" ring and give it to the owner of the house (who is pretty much a crook himself)..

A funny novel-- as always, Westlake's Dortmunder series is funny and clever.
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Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008) was one of the most prolific and talented authors of American crime fiction. He began his career in the late 1950's, churning out novels for pulp houses—often writing as many as four novels a year under various pseudonyms such as Richard Stark—but soon began publishing under his own name. His most well-known characters were John Dortmunder, an unlucky thief, and a ru ...more
More about Donald E. Westlake...

Other Books in the Series

Dortmunder (1 - 10 of 15 books)
  • The Hot Rock (Dortmunder, #1)
  • Bank Shot (Dortmunder, #2)
  • Jimmy The Kid (Dortmunder, #3)
  • Nobody's Perfect (Dortmunder, #4)
  • Why Me? (Dortmunder, #5)
  • Good Behavior (Dortmunder, #6)
  • Drowned Hopes (Dortmunder, #7)
  • Don't Ask (Dortmunder, #8)
  • Bad News (Dortmunder, #10)
  • The Road To Ruin (Dortmunder, #11)

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