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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)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,465 ratings  ·  105 reviews
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 goes to burglarize Long Island billionaire Max Fairbanks. As luck would have ...more
Hardcover, 373 pages
Published October 1st 1996 by Mysterious Press (first published January 1st 1996)
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Steven Harbin
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sherwood Smith
Jul 12, 2017 added it
Shelves: caper
Supposing you like caper novels, you have your favorite. Everyone I've every talked to who likes caper stories has their particular favorite, the perfect caper story.

This one is mine.

I've read most of Westlake's work, and I much prefer the comedy; there's one other I enjoy enough to reread, and I'll review it when I reread it next.

This one has all the elements I enjoy. It starts off with sad sack John Dortmunder being given a ring by his friend May, then embarking with a friend on a spot of burg
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
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
Mal Warwick
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you've never encountered John Dortmunder and you feel a need to cheer up, immerse yourself in the series of fourteen books about the dubious criminal career of this marvelous character. These stories are among the more than one hundred novels and nonfiction books Donald E. Westlake wrote in a career spanning fifty years. What's the Worst That Could Happen? is the ninth caper novel in the Dortmunder series. It may be one of the best.

John Dortmunder is "a slope-shouldered defeated-looking fello
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Apr 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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. ...more
Jan 13, 2009 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.
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: x2019-20-season
Disappointing on several levels. The nemesis' digressions into mysticism completely takes one out of the story; Dortmunder belongs in NYC and it's environs, not traipsing across the country, and JD has never had such a resounding victory to conclude one of his escapades, and shouldn't have unless this was the final installment of the series (which it clearly is not). ...more
Carol Jean
Dec 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite of all the Dortmunders. An attempted robbery goes amiss, the self-important business tycoon homeowner steals Dortmunder's "lucky ring" as a joke and Dortmunder's "luck" (or lack thereof) goes with it! Hilarious from start to finish. ...more
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With the world the way it is, so confusing and unsettling and downright scary, you sometimes just need books that will put a smile on your face. Last weeks’ was most definitely one of these. And of course, anything with the Westlake name and a Dortmunder starring role, is going to have the requisite jokes to take me away from the real world.

Loveable thief, John Dortmunder breaks into a supposedly empty Long island mansion, where he’s surprised to find the owner with a pistol in hand. This owner
Jan 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing
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
May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!!!! ...more
Chi Dubinski
Dec 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 18, 2011 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. ...more
Got this in a box of books...its a little beat up, but still readable; just not his best work, IMO (a bit "hokey").... ...more
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Probably the first Westlake I read, and very entertaining.
Or, the one in which Dormunder wins, for once.

This book is amazing. There is no other word for it, especially after the horrorshow that was Drowned Hopes. To go from that (which I couldn't even finish, the first Dortumunder book I flat out DNFed less than halfway through) to this is...well, amazing.

Dortmunder's lady friend May inherits a gaudy, likely cheap, ring from her Uncle GG. Uncle GG considered it his good luck charm, so May offers it to Dortmunder, because he could use some good luck for
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very enjoyable caper novel in the Dortmunder series. I really am getting to like Westlake and this comedic crime series of novels. In this one, Dortmunder is given a good luck ring from his companion May. He wears it to burglarize a billionaire's house on Long Island but the owner, Max Fairbanks, is unexpectedly there and turns the tables on Dortmunder, pulling a gun on him and calling the cops. And then to shove it in Dortmunder's face, he tells the police that the ring on his finger was stolen ...more
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
f you mentionDirty Rotten Scoundrels the scene most people bring up as their favorite is the dinner party, the one where Steve Martin is wearing an eyepatch and eating with a cork on his cutlery. But I'm partial to the stretch where Michael Caine is trying to bait a con by losing all his money at roulette to build sympathy but instead wins on spin after spin, muttering as he cashes in a huge pile of chips about "one run of bad luck after another."

This book has a lot of that humor. Dortmunder is
Kat Waterflame
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
90% of the time, if I watch a movie before the book, I still like the movie. It's a different telling of the world, and I can appreciate it for what it is. The only movie that I have ever absolutely hated and will never watch again after reading the book was "What's The Worst That Could Happen?" (imdb link: )
The book is actually the 9th in a series, which I wasn't aware of when I saw the movie. I only saw the movie because I worked at a video store, we got f
Allan Dyen-Shapiro
I read this on a friend's recommendation. I'd read some of the Parker stories, but he said if I hadn't read a Dortmunder story, I couldn't say I'd truly experienced Westlake. Well, it was okay. Dortmunder is a comic figure--a criminal with a silly but consistent code of ethics. During a burglary, the person he was robbing called the cops and then pretended Dortmunder's ring was his. The rest of the book is a quest to get the ring back. On the way, he and his gang pull off numerous heists that ra ...more
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I love all of Donald Westlake's books, but I love the Dortmunder ones most of all; each one is a taut, clever crime thriller with loads of wry comedy, featuring an everyman burglar who's both highly skilled but supremely unlucky, and imminently relatable. In this entry, he burgles a house, has the tables turned on him, and ends up losing his lucky ring to the man he was trying to rob... so naturally, he spends the rest of the book trying to get it back. What more do you need to know? It's a page ...more
Nan Silvernail
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
May, Dortmunder's ever lovin' lady friend's uncle has died and left her his lucky ring. But, the thing is, the uncle never was really all that lucky.
Dortmunder is always in need of luck and being a man's ring, May insists he wear it.
From there on in, it's all shenanigans and even more unusual Dortmunder fun than usual.
Let's just say, with no spoilers, that Lady Luck can be capricious and fickle, turning on a dime or the curve of a ring or even the i ching.
Kitty Griffin
Aug 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As Covid slogged its way through my life I needed something to make me laugh. Donald Westlake achieved this with "What's the Worst that Could Happen?" I love Dortmunder, the sad-faced burglar. His crew are now my friends. This is a caper book and just what the doctor ordered for the weariness that the WORST virus has hammered us with. ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
Definitely one of the more enjoyable of Dortmunder's capers, as instead of one real failure after another, the crew "fails" by making massive scores but without obtaining the one true objective -- getting back Dortmunder's ring that a robbery "victim" managed to lift off of him. ...more
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this whole series. I love every character in John Dortmunder's crew. And I love the fact that sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they fail. Best of all, I love the titles. And this #9 in the series is no exception.
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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 Park ...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)
  • 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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