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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)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  1,238 ratings  ·  80 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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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,238 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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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
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
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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
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
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.
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!!!!
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 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.
Got this in a box of books...its a little beat up, but still readable; just not his best work, IMO (a bit "hokey")....
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
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.
Erik Tanouye
Got this at the annex of Second Story Books in Rockville.
Dec 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another enjoyable Dortmunder caper ... off to read #10!
An Odd1
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fun, fan
My favorite Dortmunder because he drives events (and luck, good this time). Slapstick hilarity grows. Seeking only the return of his lucky ring, Dortmunder's gang expands with his success, as he lets them collect more and more booty from his nasty opponent's homes to the finale, a lavish Las Vegas casino hotel complex.
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
#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
Jun 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read this before, but given what's been going on in the news, I did what I usually do during dark and depressing times, I turned to the comic caper novels of the late Donald E. Westlake.

Oddly enough, it's extremely appropriate to what's happening in the world right now. Max Fairbanks shares an awful lot in common with the 45th President. I had forgotten just how much Fairbanks is reminiscent of the man.

If you've never read any of the Dortmunder novels, you're missing out. John Dortmunder
Aaron Martz
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Paul Wilson
Oct 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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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)
  • 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)
“a whole lot of ideas isn’t a plan. A plan is a bunch of details that mesh with one another, so you go from this step to this step like crossing a stream on a lot of little boulders sticking out, and never fall in. Ideas without a plan is usually just enough boulders to get you into the deep part of the stream, and no way to get back.” 1 likes
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