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Why Me?

(Dortmunder #5)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,042 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Dortmunder draws international attention when he steals the wrong ring

The Byzantine Fire is much more than a ninety-carat ruby. As a stone it’s worth over a million dollars, a value vastly increased by its pure gold band—but its history makes it priceless. A ring that has been fought for with sword and pen, and passed from nation to nation by all manner of theft and tricke
ebook, 196 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Road (first published February 4th 1983)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,042 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone

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 o
Apr 11, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: x2018-19-season
Its a smaller tale than those that preceded it, with no real set pieces and an odd stylistic alteration - namely, whereas in previous installments Dortmunder viewed his associate Andy as a jinx consistently through four volumes, now there is casual talk of a 'Dortmunder curse' - a deviation that inexplicably alters both the nature and the character of our lead.
Jeff P
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick read, but excellent as always. Even when working alone, things go wrong for Dortmunder.
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the Dortmunder series. They never disappoint.
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pure delight -- had me laughing out loud in that Westlake Dortmunder way. Splendid entertainment, fast and funny.
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not the best in the series and not the worst. If you like Dortmunder, and why wouldn't you, it's worth reading.
I really liked that Andy stuck by him despite (view spoiler).
Some of the funniest parts were the one clueless FBI man and the interaction among the international spies, all busy bugging each other.
Luca Rotondo
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars..For now the best Dortmunder in the series!
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: noirboiled
Upon finishing the Parker series, I began Dortmunder with a sense of desperate skepticism, and I have been pleasantly surprised. I was underwhelmed by Dortmunder #1 (The Hot Rock), but Dortmunder #2 (Bank Shot) was good enough to keep me going. Dortmunder #3 (Jimmy the Kid) was genius, which made mediocre Dortmunder #4 (Nobody’s Perfect) even more disappointing. Fortunately, Dortmunder #5 (Why Me?) is pretty great. The relationship between Dortmunder and his sidekick Andy Kelp deepens, which poi ...more
Brooks Jones
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another hilarious installment in the Dortmunder series, in which he accidentally makes off with the biggest heist of his career: the Byzantine Fire, a huge ruby in the process of being returned to Turkey. Because the disappearance of this international treasure causes the cops in New York to suspect anyone who's ever been involved in theft, petty or otherwise, the criminal community vows to find the perp and turn him in. Of course, John Dortmunder gets caught in the middle of the mess but finds ...more
Dortmunder accidentally makes the biggest score of his career, then his only problem is getting rid of the loot.

This book was almost all about Dortmunder and Andy Kelp. Most of the other regular characters only make a bit appearance. There are some new interesting characters in the police department and FBI who add a lot of humor to the story.

Pretty good although I missed Stan Murch's driving talents in this one. If your a fan of the series you will like it but It would not be a good place to s
Westlake is a comic crime master and he had such a good comic timing in this book. Its hard for me to laugh while reading a book but he made me laugh several times.

It was a very funny read but i didnt like the lack of heist planning, work in this book. Usually in Dortmunder books when the heist starts to go wrong that is the highlight. This time he jumped over heist part of the story to tell what happens afterwards.
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
This is a really funny book, with great characters and great character names, from the hero, John Dortmunder, to the Italian cop who passes as Irish, Officer Malogna (pr. Maloney), to the yes man, Bob Freedly. Really fun to read.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have reread Westlake's series of books with Dortmunder in them many, many times. Always an enjoyable read. Great characters and plots. Dortmunder succeeds while at the same time failing. He accidently ends up with a priceless Ruby ring when he burgles a jewelry store (where the owner has put out a sign stating he is on vacation for 2 weeks). The ring was in transit to Turkey as a gift from the American people, but when it disappears everyone has a theory as to why and how. The pressure is on t ...more
Meh. Although amusing, this is Not Great. It's Dortmunder against the world, and to be in this position, Dortmunder basically has to be the biggest idiot on the planet. The preceding four books prove that he's not an idiot, but he certainly acts like it in this book. Very disappointing.

The humor basically comes from the pissing match between the FBI and the NYPD; unfortunately it's laced with a lot of racist and homophobic remarks/stereotypes. That's not the only thing that dates this book, eith
Critter Reyome
Nov 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought "Jimmy the Kid" was great but this...Westlake's plotting here is unbelievable, and the caper itself...I better not describe this in too much detail, other than to say that sometimes it seems that Dortmunder really is cursed, and this time he really CAN'T blame Andy Kelp...why hasn't Hollywood picked up on this stuff? I mean, I'm sure there's a reason, but this stories are genuine rib-ticklers and I would love to see how they might be interpreted. Still, theater of the mind and all, per ...more
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Another fun Dortmunder heist story, although this one is actually an anti-heist book as the job goes off as a solo project since Dortmunder can't get any help, and he inadvertently steals an internationally known (and contested) gem. This leads to a freeze on all criminal activities among the city's thieves, as New York's finest crack down hard to prevent an international incident. The usual cast of characters are there, making things harder and eventually helping Dortmunder get out from under y ...more
The worst of the Dortmunders, by a fair shake. I'm guessing Westlake regretted the racist and homophobic language, even if it was clearly meant to flesh out a character who would have clearly been racist and homophobic.
Ron McLeod
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Always good

Lots of madcap highjinx with Dortmunder. West Lake has millions of great lines. Where does he get them all? Well traveled I suppose. Ready for the next Dortmunder, without reservation
Glenn Richard
"So," Mologna said, "a lot of you social misfits, penny-ante heisters, cheapjack four-flushers, and miserable hopeless losers figure you'll help the Police Department of the City of New York find the Byzantine Fire, is that it?"
Mahesh Phadke
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my first book in Dortmunder series. Absolutely hilarious from start to finish. And good plot too. I would rate this higher than the other gem by Westlake "Dancing Aztecs"
Rodger A. Payne
It's an entertaining Dortmunder story. As per usual, the plot is kind of convoluted and it probably could not happen in today's world with cell phones, computers, etc.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. A must read for NYC crime fiction readers.
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to the audible version and laughed out loud at parts. I love Westlake's Dortmunder novels. His characters are wonderfully delightful.
Sandy Maguire
Dec 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was getting a bit bored by Dortmunder from the last few books; they're a too samey, with one-dimensional characters (the bartender who refers to people by what they drink; the driver whose only discussion topic is what route he took to the meeting --- even though most of the stings don't require a driver!; etc). This book is a nice shake up to the formula, in which Dortmunder accidentally steals the macguffin and can't wait (or manage) to get rid of it.
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The crime is a small part of this. It's more about getting away with it in one piece.
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a half dozen or more Donald Westlake novels (some of which can be found at my blog, and I have to say that I'm the least impressed by this one, Why Me. So unimpressed in facet that yesterday's discovery that they had made a movie of it is not just surprising, it's utterly shocking.

Although funny and light and witty in the manner of Catch 22 and so many of Donald Westlake's other novels this one had absolutely no depth. It was one note. There was one pl
Jason Reeser
Nov 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read some of my other Dortmunder reviews to get an idea of what I think of this superb and wacky set of books. I love 'em. And Why Me? is one of the lightest, silliest ones Westlake wrote. He was certainly in a screwy mood when he wrote this book. A short read, this one had me laughing so much I was reading bits and pieces of it to my wife, who doesn't really like these types of books, but she enjoyed the excerpts, laughing along with me.

And what more can you say about John Dortmunder's bad luc
Jerry B
“Why” was our introduction to Westlake’s Dortmunder series – 15 novels in all published over a remarkable nearly 40-year span – featuring an amusing character who is a professional thief, albeit kind of a bumbler. In this comic crime story, he happens to burglarize a jewelry store that coincidentally was being used to overnight store a priceless gem (a 90-carat ruby!) stolen earlier that day in a United Nations scheme with huge political implications. It takes a couple days for our protagonist a ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why Me is part of Donald Westlake's comic-crime Dortmunder Series. Dortmunder is the world's unluckiest thief. In Why Me he unwittingly steals the Byzantine Fire, a rare and famous ruby ring during a standard jewellery store robbery. Without knowing it he brings down heat from the cops, the FBI, foreign governments, terrorists and even his fellow criminals and has to figure out how to get rid of the ring and the heat without getting caught. Like everything of Westlake's I have read it's a fun li ...more
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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

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)
  • Good Behavior (Dortmunder, #6)
  • Drowned Hopes (Dortmunder, #7)
  • Don't Ask (Dortmunder, #8)
  • What's The Worst That Could Happen? (Dortmunder, #9)
  • Bad News (Dortmunder, #10)
  • The Road To Ruin (Dortmunder, #11)

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