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Why Me? (Dortmunder, #5)
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Why Me?

(Dortmunder #5)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  963 ratings  ·  53 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
ebook, 196 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Road (first published February 4th 1983)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  963 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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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.
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 resemblanc
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the Dortmunder series. They never disappoint.
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 points to the remarkable strength of the series: Dortmunde(Why(Nobody’s(Jimmy(Bank(The ...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 goo
Mohammed Abdi Osman
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 b
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
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?"
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
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. A must read for NYC crime fiction readers.
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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"
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 plot and the story follo
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
Jan 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who has ever been irritated by someone else's answering machine
The hapless Dortmunder inadvertantly pulls off the biggest heist of his career, stealing the world's most valuable ruby from the safe of a podunk Long Island jeweler. Unfortunately, not only does he not realize what he's stolen: he soon has to face the wrath of the FBI, the NYPD (led by Chief Inspector Francis X. Mologna, pronounced "Maloney"), every criminal in the Five Boroughs, and the combined forces of half a dozen international terrorist organizations. Even more perilously, he has unwittin ...more
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hilarious first chapter! And beyond! A petty thief named Dortmunder accidentally steals a precious jewel that had just been stolen by other thieves! And little does he know that not only does he have it, but his "world is filling up with police forces, intelligence agencies, guerrilla bands, assassination teams, religious fanatics, all pointed at that poor bastard's head"! The unwitting fool! Great characters and wonderful humor! And I loved all the rigamarole withe the telephones! A great read!
Shelley Barnow
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, favorites, thriller
A book in the Donald Westlake's Dortmunder series. Very funny hapless crime caper. Dated? The technology is certainly a bit, but even the opening answering machine scene is still laugh-out-loud funny. VULGARITY ALERT! If tongue-in-cheek stereotyping bothers you, you probably shouldn't pick this series up. Words like fag, wop, and yes, even the "n" word are applied lovingly across the board to Westlake's cast of characters.
Ah Westlake...he never disappoints me. Dortmunder is a wonder, and I always chuckle thinking I am actually rooting for the crook. But such a lovable one!

This one went to my brother, also a Dortmunder fan, while he was visiting from India. His internal clock was a little kaflooey. At 3 am the other morning, I was awakened by loud gafawing- It was my brother laughing out loud at whatever predicament Dortmunder currently found himself muddling through.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a couple of Dortmunder novels before, but this one was so funny, so thoroughly enjoyable from many angles that I've determined to read them regularly through the entire series, starting with the first. Every word, every paragraph, every character, every scene is truly funny, where you laugh out loud despite recognizing the cleverness and wit of the writing. A book to make you happy.
Sep 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Too funny

This is the most humorous book so far in the Dortmunder series. Literary allusions mix with malapropisms and multi-syllabic government jargon to make every page a laugh out loud read. Donald Westlake's series is as wonderful as the priceless ruby in this, the fifth Dortmunder novel.
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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 ruthless cr ...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)
“Zachary’s partner, a younger man with a moustache named Freedly— Well, no. The man was named Freedly. Zachary’s partner, a younger man named Freedly with a moustache— Zachary’s partner, a moustached younger man named Freedly— Freedly said, “Have you got the ring on you?” 3 likes
“A friend of mine'll follow him home tonight", Tiny said, "to get me the address. He's on the four to twelve. Around one, I'll put on a ski mask and go to that guy's house and put his head in his holster." "A ski mask," Dortmunder echoed. He was thinking how much good a ski mask would do to disguise this monster. In order to be effectively disguised, Tiny would have to put on, at a minimum, a three-room apartment.” 0 likes
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