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Bernie Rhodenbarr #11

The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons

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Ever since The Burglar on the Prowl climbed the bestseller lists in 2004, fans have been clamoring for a new book featuring the lighthearted and lightfingered Bernie Rhodenbarr. Now everybody's favorite burglar returns in an eleventh adventure that finds him and his lesbian sidekick Carolyn Kaiser breaking into houses, apartments, and even a museum, in a madcap adventure replete with American Colonial silver, an F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscript, a priceless portrait, and a remarkable array of buttons. And, wouldn't you know it, there's a dead body, all stretched out on a Trent Barling carpet...

250 pages, Kindle Edition

First published December 25, 2013

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About the author

Lawrence Block

680 books2,721 followers
Lawrence Block has been writing crime, mystery, and suspense fiction for more than half a century. He has published in excess (oh, wretched excess!) of 100 books, and no end of short stories.

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., LB attended Antioch College, but left before completing his studies; school authorities advised him that they felt he’d be happier elsewhere, and he thought this was remarkably perceptive of them.

His earliest work, published pseudonymously in the late 1950s, was mostly in the field of midcentury erotica, an apprenticeship he shared with Donald E. Westlake and Robert Silverberg. The first time Lawrence Block’s name appeared in print was when his short story “You Can’t Lose” was published in the February 1958 issue of Manhunt. The first book published under his own name was Mona (1961); it was reissued several times over the years, once as Sweet Slow Death. In 2005 it became the first offering from Hard Case Crime, and bore for the first time LB’s original title, Grifter’s Game.

LB is best known for his series characters, including cop-turned-private investigator Matthew Scudder, gentleman burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, globe-trotting insomniac Evan Tanner, and introspective assassin Keller.

Because one name is never enough, LB has also published under pseudonyms including Jill Emerson, John Warren Wells, Lesley Evans, and Anne Campbell Clarke.

LB’s magazine appearances include American Heritage, Redbook, Playboy, Linn’s Stamp News, Cosmopolitan, GQ, and The New York Times. His monthly instructional column ran in Writer’s Digest for 14 years, and led to a string of books for writers, including the classics Telling Lies for Fun & Profit and The Liar’s Bible. He has also written episodic television (Tilt!) and the Wong Kar-wai film, My Blueberry Nights.

Several of LB’s books have been filmed. The latest, A Walk Among the Tombstones, stars Liam Neeson as Matthew Scudder and is scheduled for release in September, 2014.

LB is a Grand Master of Mystery Writers of America, and a past president of MWA and the Private Eye Writers of America. He has won the Edgar and Shamus awards four times each, and the Japanese Maltese Falcon award twice, as well as the Nero Wolfe and Philip Marlowe awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, and the Diamond Dagger for Life Achievement from the Crime Writers Association (UK). He’s also been honored with the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award from Mystery Ink magazine and the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement in the short story. In France, he has been proclaimed a Grand Maitre du Roman Noir and has twice been awarded the Societe 813 trophy. He has been a guest of honor at Bouchercon and at book fairs and mystery festivals in France, Germany, Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and Taiwan. As if that were not enough, he was also presented with the key to the city of Muncie, Indiana. (But as soon as he left, they changed the locks.)

LB and his wife Lynne are enthusiastic New Yorkers and relentless world travelers; the two are members of the Travelers Century Club, and have visited around 160 countries.

He is a modest and humble fellow, although you would never guess as much from this biographical note.

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books249k followers
May 14, 2017
“The growth of intimacy is like that. First one gives off his best picture, the bright and finished product mended with bluff and falsehood and humor. Then more details are required and one paints a second portrait, and a third--before long the best lines cancel out--and the secret is exposed at last; the panes of the pictures have intermingled and given us away, and though we paint and paint we can no longer sell a picture. We must be satisfied with hoping that such famous accounts of ourselves as we make to our wives and children and business associates are accepted as true.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned

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It’s okay Fitz. Bernie and I will just have to agree to disagree.

Bernie Rhodenbarr is not convinced of the first, second or third portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He is convinced that Fitzgerald is an overblown writer.


I know and I like Bernie...a lot.

Bernie is the owner of Barnegat Books and is suffering from the same woes that any bookstore owner does in the changing climate of book commerce. The internet is killing his business, and then there are those last straw moments. A young lady comes into the bookstore trying to remember an author, browses Bernie's shelves, and discovers the author is Frank Norris. She checks her kindle and finds she can buy it cheaper digitally, and downloads the book.

Thanks Mr. Bookseller. Thanks a lot.

Let me explain a little etiquette to those of you who use brick and mortar bookstores to discover the books that you want to buy. Do not, after a bookseller has spent time helping you to find the books you want, download the books to your kindle RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM. Have the decency to step outside or maybe wait until you get home. Second, if you need a brick and mortar bookstore to help you find the right books, spend some money with them. You, like everyone else, who needs and wants brick and mortar bookstores to continue to exist, need to contribute to their financial well being. They are not a charity organization. They need to make money to continue to turn the CLOSED sign to the OPEN sign.

 photo Kindlebusted_zpsc5ff6f88.jpg
Now I would say that Bernie is busted on this one except I’d bet good money that hammer has been wiped clean.

Lucky for Bernie he has a night job. He is a burglar, a gentleman burglar in fact. His friend, a cop with sticky fingers, Ray Kirschmann, explains.

”Besides bein’ a thief to the core, another thing you’ve always been is a gentleman.”
“Why thank you, Ray That’s nice of you to say.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said, “You’re still a lowlife deadbeat who breaks into people’s houses and steals their stuff. But at the same time you’re the last of the gentleman burglars. You wouldn’t believe the kind of scumbags who’ve been moving into your profession.”
“I can imagine.”
“Instead of takin’ the trouble to learn the art and science of pickn’ a lock. they kick the door in. Instead of tiptoein’ through a house, they wake up the occupants and force ‘em to turn over their valuables.”

When Ray hits a stumbling block on a case, especially a case involving breaking and entering he will use Bernie as a consultant. He can’t pay him, but he doesn’t have a problem if Bernie nicks something from the crime scene overlooked by those thuggish, less cultured, thieves.

Bernie has a cat named Raffles, named after the burglar in the book by E. W. Hornung. He has a lesbian sidekick named Carolyn who runs a grooming palace for dogs. They take turns buying lunch and since she knows about his night time prowls he can safely discuss his latest adventures with her. She will even occasionally provide him with some much needed help with things such as surveillance as long as the next love of her life does not prove to be too much of a distraction.

Now you might be wondering why I mentioned Fitzgerald and Bernie’s rather erroneous assessment of his writing abilities. Well, see, it has to do with Mr. Smith. He is a button man, collects all things buttons. In fact when he first meets with Bernie he is sporting a William Harry Harrison campaign button on his lapel. "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

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In the 1840 election the Whig party made much of William Henry Harrison being born in a log cabin, so all his campaign buttons reinforced that image of his humble start. He was the first president to die in office.

Mr. Smith is not interested in Bernie Rhodenbarr bookseller. He is interested in Bernie Rhodenbarr gentleman burglar. Smith’s button collecting has evolved beyond just physical buttons. He wants to add a particular short story of Fitzgerald’s to his collection. You might be able to guess it. Hollywood made a movie starring Brad Pitt. Ah yes:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The story is so “poorly written” it gives Bernie the shivers. Smith is not a big fan either, but when he discovers the original manuscript is in a local New York museum he has to have it. Another BUTTON for his collection. Stealing the manuscript from this museum is like taking candy from a baby when you have the skill set of Bernie Rhodenbarr.

Smith wants more. He has a particular fondness for one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, a gentleman by the name of Button Gwinnett. Smith covets a spoon that depicts the image of Gwinnett that is currently owned by a reclusive collector in the city. This one gets complicated.

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This portrait of Button Gwinnett might be the clue to help solve Ray’s case. Gwinnett signed the Declaration of Independence as a representative of Georgia. In 1777 he was killed in a duel with his arch nemesis Lachlan McIntosh.

Meanwhile Bernie has someone who really wants to shop in his store. In fact she is leaving him notes every time she arrives to find the closed sign on the door.


Yeah that isn’t a misspelling, but a clue for Bernie.

When Bernie is closed, setting the stage for a traditional Agatha Christie reveal with all the suspected characters in attendance, he misses his elusive customer again.


I believe that Bernie was just complaining about not having enough customers. Here is one with her tail on fire trying to get in and he is too busy with his daytime issues from his night time activities to let her extinguish that flaming desire with the soothing balm of the right book.

Booksellers do have responsibilities... damn it.

It has been ten years since I’ve read a Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery because Lawrence Block has been writing books that make him more money such as his celebrated Matthew Scudder series. Whenever opportunity has presented itself I have harassed (the restraining order has expired) Block to write another Bernie. We’ve exchanged emails. I’ve left poignant Bernie love letters on Block’s facebook page. Finally I must have worn him down.

Well probably not.

If I were to guess I would say that Block missed Bernie too. Missed him in fact so much that he self-published this book. I wouldn’t be surprised if more big name authors become self-publishers in the future. In this book you will learn about apostle spoons, how to fool a burglar, silversmithing, forgotten founding fathers, agoraphobia, what happens when you don’t pay a burglar, entering without breaking, peanut allergies, and be exposed to hilarious intelligent playful banter. If you have never read a Bernie before this is actually a good one to start with. If you like this one, which you will, then you can go back and read the other ten entries in the series. Welcome back Bernie and thank you Lawrence Block.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,976 followers
August 3, 2016
OK, now I get it.

Despite being a huge fan of Lawrence Block, his series featuring professional thief and book store owner Bernie Rhodenbarr never tripped my trigger like most of his other stuff does. A few years back after reading Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, I thought I had finally pinned down why. Unlike Block’s other regular characters, Bernie’s books aren’t really about his chosen profession. Matt Scudder is a detective who does a lot of detecting. John Keller is a hired killer who kills a whole bunch of people. But the main point to Bernie’s stories were not that he burgles. Instead, he’s a burglar who usually ends up playing amateur sleuth due to circumstances brought about by his breaking and entering. (It didn’t help that I was comparing Bernie to Donald Westlake’s comedic series about luckless thief John Dortmunder whose exploits are all about coming up with creative plans to steal stuff.)

However, while reading this I found myself completely charmed by Bernie and his adventures in illegal entry as well as trying to solve a mystery so I think that by realizing what had irked me about the series in the past, I was finally able to just relax and enjoy Block showing a lighter comic touch on a more whimsical character rather than nitpicking the story for what it isn’t.

What I ended up liking the most was the similarity that Bernie shares with Block’s other creations in that he has a lot of quirky conversations with a variety of people. The historical tidbits learned from an eccentric collector who hires Bernie to steal a couple of items he can’t get his hands on legally were interesting and might come in handy during a game of trivial pursuit. I’d cheerfully read a book that was nothing but the oddball conversations that Bernie has with his best friend Carolyn over lunches and drinks that may start out being about his latest job but frequently go off into different directions that involve jokes, random observations, idle musings and general goofing around.

We also get Bernie’s complaints and observations about running a book store in the age of the Kindle as well as a few shout outs to crime writers like Ed McBain and Michael Connelly. Then there’s an overall plot that involves a couple of burglary schemes and Bernie being asked by a cop to lend his expertise to a crime scene involving a burglary and potential homicide. Put all this together and you get a book that provide more than a few laughs that also gives the reader some things to puzzle out.

You weren’t the problem, Bernie. It was me all along.

Also posted atKemper's Book Blog.
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,944 followers
December 26, 2013
After an absence of nearly ten years, Bernie Rhodenbarr, burglar and bookstore owner, returns in The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons. For those who haven't yet made his acquaintance, Bernie is the creation of Lawrence Block, who is also known for his hit man series featuring John Keller, and his brilliant P.I. series that features Matthew Scudder.

The Rhodenbarr books are much more light-hearted that the Scudder books, and Bernie is blessedly free of the demons that have haunted his stable mate through the years. Bernie thinks of himself as the last of the Gentlemen Burglars and he's much quicker with his wit than with his fists or with any other sort of weapon.

These books generally follow a formula in which Bernie is burgling a house or an apartment, almost always belonging to someone who can well-afford to lose whatever it might be that Bernie is about to relieve them of. Then, in the course of things, a body inconveniently appears, though never as a part of Bernie's handiwork.

The case will be investigated by Bernie's nemesis, the fumbling police detective, Ray Kirschmann. Ray always assumes that Bernie is responsible for the homicide and Bernie then has to solve the crime in order to save his own skin. Almost always this involves gathering all the potential subjects together at the end, in the style of Agatha Christie, so that Bernie can explain the logic of the crime and finally point the finger at the Real Killer.

It's always a lot of fun to watch the story unfold and while this book deviates slightly from the traditional formula, it's certain to entertain anyone who's enjoyed the series through the years.

In this case, a man named "Smith" hires Bernie to commit a series of burglaries to retrieve objects of value to the client which he cannot obtain legally. Meanwhile, Ray Kirschmann is investigating a puzzling homicide and no one will be surprised when the two cases intersect. As always, along the way there's a good deal of banter between Bernie and his best friend, Carolyn, who is a lesbian dog groomer.

Readers who have enjoyed the earlier books will certainly like this one as well. Readers who find the concept intriguing but who haven't read the earlier books might want to start at the beginning of the series with Burglars Can't Be Choosers. While neophytes would probably enjoy this new entry, there's a fair amount going on that would be better appreciated by those who have watched Bernie's career and his relationships develop through the years. We can only hope that Bernie is not now in for another ten-year vacation.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
3,005 reviews10.6k followers
October 26, 2013
When the mysterious Mr. Smith hires Bernie Rhodenbarr to steal an early draft of Benjamin Button from a museum, Bernie pulls off the heist and winds up agreeing to steal a silver spoon depicting Button Gwinnett, one of the lesser known signees of the Declaration of Independence. But what does any of that have to do with Helen Osterheimer, a wealthy woman found dead in her apartment?

When your favorite living crime writer needs something done, be it driving a getaway car, hacksawing the limbs off of corpse, or reviewing a soon to be released book, you drop what you're doing and get to it. Thankfully, there was a minimal amount of sawing involved in reading this ARC.

First off, Bernie Rhodenbarr is not my favorite of Lawrence Block's series characters, running a distant third behind Keller and the big dog, Matthew Scudder. However, when this ARC fell into my lap, I decided to give Bernie another shot and was glad I did. I was hooked from the opening scene and devoured the book in two sittings.

The Burglar novels are lighter than the Scudder or Keller books, more like Dorothy Sayers or Rex Stout. This one, the Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, had me out in the snow for a great portion of it. Bernie managed to stay a few steps of everyone, including me. Lawrence Block is some kind of literary magician. When you think you've figured out where he's got the rabbit hidden, you turn around to find he's made the Statue of Liberty disappear while you weren't looking.

Bernie's profession is that of a burglar but he's often called upon to do his share of detecting. As he unravels Smith's identity and who killed Helen Osterheimer, I couldn't help but feel a little like Bernie and Block were taking me to school.

While it's a very entertaining mystery, Block also manages to throw down some serious historical trivia and hold my interest for pages at a time, much like he does in the Keller books when Keller goes off on tangents about stamps. I had no idea who Button Gwinnett was before I started reading and now I'm a little curious to learn more.

The supporting cast of Carolyn and Ray were like visiting old friends I hadn't realized I missed. I thought the various heists were believably done and weren't bogged down with unnecessary details. Like I said earlier, I was in the dark for most of the book, which is what I look for in a mystery.

I guess that's all I have to say. Bernie Rhodenbarr has moved up a few notches in my esteem and I guess I'll be filling in the gaps in my Burglar reading pretty soon. Four easy stars!
Profile Image for John Culuris.
174 reviews76 followers
May 9, 2021
Bernie Rhodenbarr returns for his 11th adventure, the first in nine years, and if there’s any complaint it is same one that has been cropping up regularly with Block in the last decade or so: meandering. I’ve been guilty of such complaints and I also recognize a certain hypocrisy in making them. In Block’s Matt Scudder series Matt can wander anywhere in conversations with TJ or Ray Gruliow and we’re gladly along for the ride. And yet Keller, the protagonist of his most recent series, frustrates while doing everything but fulfilling his contract. I suspect familiarly is the difference. Matt and Bernie have a supporting cast that are like old friends to longtime readers. We want to know what they have to say.

In Spoons Block’s tangents happen early and those that are not particularly interesting are at least not terribly distracting, in part because he never strays too far from the main stories. In the first Bernie, a success as a professional burglar and not quite so much as a bookstore owner, is engaged by a new client to steal several collector’s items. As always, Bernie is entertaining as he surveys, plans and accomplishes his thefts. In the second concurrent story he assists his “friendly adversary” of several novels, Detective Ray Kirschmann, in an advisory capacity. Kirschmann catches a case where a burglary resulted in murder. There had to be a murder, of course. Bernie books traditionally end with him holding court before the suspects with a Rex Stout/Agatha Christie style denouncement.

Lighthearted, humorous and satisfying, Spoons is a welcome return of old friends. And as an aside: it contains perhaps the shortest chapter in history. Which, I promise, will get no complaints and not a small laugh.
Profile Image for Damo.
273 reviews31 followers
June 5, 2023
Buttons, buttons, buttons. Bernie Rhodenbarr gets to learn a whole lot about things related to buttons thanks to a mysterious man calling himself Mr Smith. The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons marked a return to the series after a break of around 10 years but that hasn’t meant that Bernie lost any of his lustre or appeal. Quite the opposite in fact.

It all starts with Mr Smith ‘hiring’ Bernie to break into a museum, locate and remove a copy of a pamphlet that happens to be the original printing of The Curious Life of Benjamin Button. From this job, more button related jobs calling on Bernie’s specialist skills are required, for which Bernie is to be well compensated.

Unusually for the Burglar series, the burglaries go well, incredibly smoothly with barely a cause for alarm. But it’s not the burglaries that are the flies in the ointment, this time, there’s a twist on the periphery that is gradually making its way directly into Bernie’s orbit. It starts with a case that Ray Kirschmann is working on and is continued with a bookstore customer who does a favour for her girlfriend.

An extremely notable occurrence takes place in this one, NYPD detective Ray Kirschmann, the longtime antagonist of Bernie’s, has come calling - not to accuse him of a burglary or other type of crime, but to seek his help in solving a burglary/suspicious death. It seems that Ray has recognised Bernie’s uncanny ability to unravel complicated cases and has decided to tap into his talents.

One little thing to look out for is a great stonking smack with the coincidence stick that takes place not once, but twice in the course of events here. It’s almost as if there are only 15 people in Bernie Rhodenbarr’s New York City and they’re all involved in a couple of burglaries. To be quite frank, I think Lawrence Block delights in throwing in these types of curveballs, just for his own amusement. He certainly never gets tired of using the trope of gathering all the suspects together in one room Nero Wolfe or Hercule Poirot style to reveal the identity of a killer. Even Bernie sounds a little embarrassed by the fact before embarking on the endeavour.

As with just about all of the Burglar books, this is an enjoyable exploit of misadventure, curious coincidences and outside of the law shenanigans. Bernie and his best friend Carolyn are perfectly suited to one another and play off each other's idiosyncrasies very nicely.

As per normal, burglaries take place, valuables are stolen, we learn just a little about literary history and a bit more about art and religious history. The slightly convoluted mysteries are adroitly unravelled by our seasoned bookseller and, just for some added fun, there’s a slight whiff of burgeoning romance.

And just as a by the way, I love the mentions given to Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series. You get a weird feeling of bonhomie to understand that we all love those books for exactly the same reasons. Very nice.
Profile Image for Brandon.
914 reviews235 followers
December 4, 2013
Bernie Rhodenbarr is approached by a customer with a proposition: steal a coveted first printing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When Bernie hands over the desired document, he’s then asked to steal a silver spoon adorned with the likeness of Benjamin Gwinnett, a background player in the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

As if this isn't enough to keep Bernie busy, he’s approached by an old friend on the other side of the law for a consultation regarding a recent break and enter that left an elderly woman dead. Can Bernie steal the silver spoon and crack the case at the same time?

I had been reading a few of Block's earlier novels published through Hard Case Crime when I received an offer from his publicist to take a look at The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons. I was a little apprehensive at first because as a reader, I never read out of sequence. This isn’t as strict as Batman's "one rule" but it’s something I prefer to abide by. However, it's Lawrence Block and it’s an advanced copy of his new book – how could I possibly say no? Truth is, I’m glad I didn't.

Not having read the previous ten installments of the Burglar series, it’s impossible for me to judge whether or not I would have had a richer reading experience had I read them first but that being said, it’s hard to imagine needing a lot of back story going in. Block does a great job bringing the reader up to speed on Rhodenbarr’s world as a semi-retired burglar who happens to own and operate a bookstore.

It’s worth mentioning that Block is a damn funny guy. There were a few laugh out loud moments in the novel that I had to highlight and save for later, my favorite being:

"..'It was a real Playboy fantasy, wasn't it? She’s hot and gorgeous, she does everything you can think of and a couple of things you can’t, and then she’s gone. It doesn't get any better than that.’

'It could have been better. Around four in the morning she could have turned into a pizza.'"

When it comes down to it, this is light storytelling at its finest. While the history of the silver spoon was tightly researched and the reasoning behind its procurement had been interesting, the free-flowing conversations between Bernie, Carolyn and Ray were the highlight, leading to the pages breezing by. I will be seeking out the earlier Bernie novels for sure – I suggest you do the same.
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews277 followers
July 5, 2015
I enjoy Lawrence Block's writing.

This is the 11th mystery featuring the New York City thief and bookseller, and the first since 2004’s "The Burglar on the Prowl". and it's good to have Bernie back.

Bernie is hired to steal the original holographic manuscript of F. Scott Fitzgerald's story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", with its original title "A Life Lived Backward", from the museum where it's being kept in storage. Bernie's client isn't a Fitzgerald collector. While this is going on, Bernie is also hanging around with his friend and dog groomer Carolyn and running his bookstore (which has some humorous incidents) . AND Bernie is also helping one of his other friends police detective Ray Kirschmann, with a case where an elderly woman appears to have died of natural causes, but under odd circumstances. So we get a large dollop of plot, a bit of Bernie's love life, and a quite enjoyable book.

You don't need to read the previous books in the series, however, you'll be missing out.

With all of this stuff going on I still found the middle of the book a bit slower going than what I usually expect from Mr. Block.

Originally Published in hardcover in 2013 and a year later in paperback, Subterranean Press brings us their edition without any extras and state "First Trade Hardcover Edition".

The books in order are:

"Burglars Can't Be Choosers" (1977)
"The Burglar in the Closet" (1978)
"The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling" (1979)
"The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza" (1980)
"The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian" (1983)
"The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams" (1994)
"The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart" (1995)
"The Burglar in the Library" (1997)
"The Burglar in the Rye" (1999)
"The Burglar on the Prowl" (2004)
"The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons" (2013)
Profile Image for Eric.
895 reviews79 followers
January 30, 2014
This book sauntered along at its own leisurely pace, despite a plot that had Bernie performing multiple jobs in succession while puzzling out the truth of a curious death. But things did eventually accelerate and come together, and the ending was punctuated by an excellent, if not original, summation gathering.

There was a bit of burgling at the beginning, with Carolyn assisting no less, but that was followed by a lull in the middle of the book filled with a number of meandering conversations between Bernie and a number of people -- including an invitation for assistance from police officer and former nemesis Ray Kirschman, a flirtation with the hostess at an Asian restaurant Bernie and Carolyn order from, a historical lesson on early American silver from a wealthy shut-in who has an item Bernie fancies, and a fascinating look at collecting from Bernie's button-hoarding client. There were also nods to other crime authors and a few sexual interludes. While this may not sound like the meatiest content for a book about a part-time burglar and accidental amateur sleuth, these languid moments in between the jobs and the reveals are what humanizes Bernie, making him so tangible and real, despite how stylized the New York City he lives in is.

As with most things Lawrence Block, I highly recommend this quick, light read. Also, note that Amazon Prime members can borrow this from the Kindle Lending Library for free, making it just that much more compelling.
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,944 reviews200 followers
June 9, 2016
The first third of The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons comes packed with so many tangents to the main two story arcs in this newest Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery that I couldn't tell if he was an ADHD writer or I the ADHD reader. I kept getting distracted and annoyed. Lawrence Block maunders off to mull over the unpredictability of life, the ephemeral state of restaurants in New York City, the difficulties of mom-and-pop bookshops in the age of Amazon, the relative merits of F. Scott Fitzgerald and founding father Button Gwinnett, the advantages and disadvantages of marriage — whether gay or straight — and the ironies of judging someone by appearances. When Block finally resigns himself to concentrate on Bernie's circumstances rather than theoretical philosophizing, I breathed a sigh of relief.

This 11th novel has been my least-favorite Rhodenbarr mystery. It was almost as if Block was a 21st century Charles Dickens, paid by the word and thus tempted to pursue every bunny trail in order to increase his payout, and it diminished the novel in consequence.

When Block finally concentrates on the plot, Bernie is pursuing two mysteries: Did the wealthy widow Helen Ostermeyer die a natural death when she collapsed on her lovely Trent Barling carpet in her mansion after she cut short a night at the opera? And who is the mysterious "Mr. Smith" who keeps subcontracting burglary jobs to the intrepid Bernie, and what's his real agenda? I enjoyed the book once Block finally focused on the plot, and I enjoyed reconnecting with Bernie, his sidekick and lesbian pet groomer Carolyn Kaiser, and the bent police officer, Ray Kirschmann. As in some of the other books, Bernie's Barnegat Books becomes the scene of an Hercule Poirot-like denouement and reveal, and there are other great homages to mysteries and literary fiction.

As the first part of the book rates two stars and the latter four, I'll split the difference for three.

I'd love to run into Bernie again in a 12th outing, although Block is spacing the books years apart these days. Just, can we take a less circumlocutory route to the mystery next time, though?
5,068 reviews57 followers
March 20, 2016
Possibly the final book in the series, but maybe not.

It sure reads like a final book. It breaks formula by eschewing Bernie finding a body in the midst of a burglary. Rather, his cop frenemy, Ray, consults him about what looks like a robbery done by somebody else. There is also a mysterious fellow who wants Bernie to steal a coveted object, but Bernie himself doesn't steal it. There's very little burglary going on at all, as a matter of fact. A fair portion of the book is Bernie telling us the best days of the burglar are behind us.

Still pretty good. Block is alive, so there might yet be another book.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,079 reviews59k followers
February 12, 2014
The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons by Lawrence Block is a Bernie Rhodenbarr mystery published in December 2013.
This was my kindle library book for the month of January. I couldn't believe it when I saw this one was available in the kindle lending library. This is the 11th novel in this offbeat mystery series featuring Bernie Rhonenbarr and his partner in crime Carolyn.
BOSWELL: I added that this person maintained that there was no distinction between virtue and vice.
JOHNSON: Why, Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks, he is lying; and I see not what honour he can propose to himself from having the character of a liar. But if he does really think that there is no distinction between virture an vice, why, Sir, when he leaves our house let us count our spoons.
While Bernie innocently works in his Greenwich Village book store during the day, he is hired to scout out places to rob looking for specific items, in his spare time. Bernie has a penchant for art and in this book a rare manscript amonng other things is on the agenda.
Naturally, Bernie stumbles across a dead body during his clandestine pursuits. How all these oddities wind up in murder is anyone's guess.
Block's trademark is unconventional characters, a true blue detective, a hired murderer, and burgler round out the infamous Block characters. Having a thief involved in a murder mystery is irony at it's best. Humor, wonderful dialogue, a mystery on the lighter side, and I love all the shout outs to other authors and other book series. It has been a while since the last book in this series was published and I know there was a lot of excitment for fans when this one was released.
This is a quick, easy and fun read written by one of the best. It's always a pleasure to read a Lawerence Block novel. This one is an A
Profile Image for Linwood Barclay.
Author 98 books6,001 followers
June 11, 2015
I loved this book. Although Block's Scudder series is my favourite, maybe because those novels are so much darker, this was a delight to read. I can think of very few writers whose work reads as easily as Block's. A delight.
Profile Image for Mike French.
430 reviews93 followers
January 23, 2015
It was great to see a new The Burglar Who book after a nine year hiatus. Bernie Rhodenbarr is back!! I really enjoyed the story . From to finish. A must read for all Lawrence Block fans.
1,090 reviews15 followers
November 25, 2013
This wonderful new book brings the return of Bernard Grimes (“Bernie,” or just “Bern”) Rhodenbarr, proprietor (with the help of his cat, Raffles) of Barnegat Books, on East 11th Street off Broadway, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Bernie also has a “sideline” as a burglar. Or maybe running the bookstore is the sideline. He has also been called a “gentleman burglar . . . a vanishin’ breed.” He himself admits “I’ve been doing this long enough so that it’s a profession.” But there is no doubt he loves books, and bookstores, the “old-fashioned kind, where people come in looking for something to read, and collectors come in hunting for treasures, and we all have nice intellectual conversations,” and bemoans the fact that “the world’s changing,” referring to the obvious direction in which the world of publishing in particular is headed.

As his best friend, Carolyn reminds him, in the past he and the local police have had sort of an adversarial relationship, where he was sought out “for the benefit of his expertise” when he’d gotten himself “in some jam and the only way out of it is to catch the real killer.” But this time his friend, Detective Ray Kirschmann, requests that Bernie act as an unofficial NYPD consultant when an elderly woman is found dead in her 92nd Street apartment, which appears to have been burglarized as well. The other plot line deals with a mysterious customer obsessed with collections in general, and buttons in particular. What follows is a terrific tale of detection and investigation, ending with a gathering of suspects in a scene beginning with the words “I suppose you’re wondering why I summoned you all here” which fans of detective (amateur or otherwise) fiction have known and loved for a long time.

If you enjoy consistently erudite, witty, clever writing, and who amongst us does not, you will find much to love here. I also particularly enjoyed the tip of the hat by the author to a few of the finest practitioners of the art of writing mystery fiction: Jeffery Deaver, Michael Connelly, S.J. Rozan, and the late Ed McBain and Rex Stout. I found myself wondering what percentage of the gems put forth by the author are actual fact - - all, I suspect, and all of it fascinating (some obscure, if not arcane) and all very impressive. As well, I was delighted by the reference to Brooklyn when it was “so far from being a desirable address that the Dodgers hadn’t even left yet.” And to discover that Bernie is apparently a Mets fan to boot (full disclosure: I am a former Brooklynite/Dodgers fan and a present Mets fan). The publication date makes this a perfect holiday gift, perhaps for oneself.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Daniel Sevitt.
1,199 reviews105 followers
August 19, 2018
Lightweight fun. Not sure there's anywhere else for Bernie Rhodenbarr to go and even this one feels like it was strictly for fans, but, as a fan, I lapped it up. There's even some nice meta-commentary as perma-sidekick Carolyn notes that there was less burgling and more sleuthing in this one and suggests that Bernie could pursue this instead of being a criminal. He dismisses the idea neatly with a reference to Dan Marlowe's The Name of the Game is Death. Like I said, strictly for fans.
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,081 reviews620 followers
January 15, 2014
Great to have the light fingered Rhodenbarr back after many years of absence. The witty exchanges between he and his usual cast of sidekicks (Ray 'the best cop money can buy' Kirschmann being my personal favourite) are brilliant and, as usual, Block provides a history lesson prompted by thoughts of an item soon to be in his possession. The story follows the normal pattern replete with and old fashioned whodunit finish. It's all great fun.
Whilst he continues to churn out high quality material like this I just hope LB decides to keep postponing his retirement!
Profile Image for Fred Forbes.
991 reviews48 followers
February 2, 2014
Interesting that another review criticizes this book for wandering off with comments about other books and other authors when I find that an appealing part of the series. The gentleman burglar owns a bookstore so his literary bent comes naturally and is part of the charm. I also tend to learn a few things. Frankly, I didn't miss the gratuitous violence and profanity of other current crime novels and enjoyed settling in with a comfortable fast read as a number of my current reads have begun to plod. A nice break, Bernie, welcome back!
58 reviews
September 18, 2023
Bernie is a really fun and smart burglar. So there are clever buglaries and a lot of laughs in this book. The plot just did not do it for me: I found the murder motive believable, but the button fetish of mr. Smith was a bit too far-fetched for me. I couldnt understand why he would hire Bernie for a robbery and do another himself. Also I didn't think bribing the police officers involved in the end was very credible. In defense of the plot: the chief investigator had selected bribeable cops. But it felt forced and necessary to finish the story without anyone going to trial.
So a bit light on the mystery, but heavy on the fun.
Profile Image for Jaq Greenspon.
Author 12 books68 followers
December 26, 2013
There are times during The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons where our protagonist Bernie Rhodenbarr laments that he doesn’t want anything to change. He wants everything to continue on just the way it is. We who love the Burglar books want the same thing. There’s just one problem: things change whether we want them to or not.

And yet… Lawrence Block manages to address both issues at the same time and does it brilliantly. This is the book Block wrote after he decided to retire, so at this point, anything he comes out with is gravy, and his fans would pick it up regardless – but he doesn’t rely on that. Instead, he gives us a Burglar book which addresses the idea of change and the idea of status quo and still delivers a first rate mystery in his classic style.

If you’re familiar with the series, of which this is number 11, all the elements are present. Carolyn Kaiser, Ray Kirschman, the various places of employ and relaxation and, well, the Two Guys from… restaurant, which delivers the best surprise of the bunch (okay, it doesn’t deliver, you have to pick it up, but that’s splitting hairs). In every sense, this is a perfect Bernie story. He commits crimes, he solves crimes, he has witty banter with everyone, he gets laid (Good on ya Bern!) and he’s instantly recognizable as the same guy who first appeared in 1977.

Except he’s not the same guy. Block doesn’t let Bernie age (this isn’t series for that – that’s his Scudder books, which are also amazing, but playing in a different ballpark) but the world around him does. No longer can Bernie merely walk around a building, now he has to deal with security cameras. He doesn’t look up information in encyclopedias, but Googles them instead. He learns about burner phones and Internet book dealers. In this way, Bernie has already changed with the times but he’s still the same old Bernie.

All the while, Block is also taking us all on a trip down memory lane. He references a number of the past adventures (no harm if you haven’t read them, although what are you waiting for?) which leads us to a rather interesting observation made by Carolyn near the end of the book regarding Bernie’s night time activities and his interesting relationship with law enforcement. It’s something we, as readers have obviously seen (that’s why we keep reading) but by having Ms. Kaiser point it out, and Bernie to flat out reject its implications, is a wonderful nod to the fluid nature of the books and their internal reality.

Enough of that, though, this book stands on its own quite nicely. As a former rare book seller, I greatly appreciated the insight into that world, especially the peek behind the curtain of the original holographs and association copies and the shout outs to Button Gwinnet, the unsung hero of founding father collectibles is priceless (almost literally). The way the various threads of the plot tie together make for a characteristic Rhodenbarr “wondering why I called you all here” unraveling and a certain moral ambiguity we love to see in our favorite burglar.

Finally, there’s “Juneau Lock,” the mythical location of great Chinese food and one of the reason why these books and characters are so great to return to time and again. While it’s got nothing at all to do with the main mystery, it has everything to do with the lives of our heroes. And in the end, that’s really what we’re interested in and why keep checking back. We want to see how the gang is doing, even if they never change. We do, and we can appreciate them on new levels every time. So whether this is the final adventure we read about, we’re left with the impression this is certainly not the final adventure Bernie will be having. And that makes me happy.
Profile Image for Nigel Bird.
Author 41 books71 followers
November 19, 2013
Lawrence Block books are always worth reading. He’s a talented guy. One way to evidence that is to point out how he can vary his style depending on his project. He’s got Scudder, all lean and mean PI, he’s got Keller the Hitman, there’s Bernie Rhodenbarr the break-in specialist, he’s got his one off’s and his erotic work and all of those I’ve read have brought me a good deal of pleasure.
The books have slightly different paces to fit the style.
Bernie Rhodenbarr is a slightly gentler character than those mentioned above. The books he’s in are more conversational and meandering than, say, Scudder’s stories.
Bernie’s a great guy. A bookseller of the old-school variety. In ‘Spoons’, he’s very much aware of the changes in the world of the old bookstore and the way technology has shifted the goalposts so far that he’s practically an endangered species. It’s fun to hear his ideas on the modern world and there’s something about the way he talks about his main profession that made me want to go and browse for something second hand.
He gets involved in a few burglaries where a client of his has put in orders for material that’s in private hands. The setting up of the crimes and the carrying out of them are well told and we get to see the craftsman working at his second job of breaking-and-entering.
The plot is thickened when his old friend, policeman Ray, comes along to ask his advice on a possible murder. What Ray requires is a burglar’s eyes and an insight so that the mystery of the death of an old lady in question might be solved.
From this point on the story becomes a Whodunit?, though there are lots of other elements to Bernie’s life to keep hold of the interest in other ways – his relationships with the women and his ongoing friendship with his poodle-parlour lunch-mate Carolyn.
As I’ve read others in this series, I found that reading this latest addition was a bit like catching up with an old friend. It didn’t take long for me to find my feet as Mr Block did a great job of bringing me up to speed in a way that was helpful and not too over-egged (a series shouldn’t need so much back-story as to alienate old readers, but needs to offer enough of a canvas to allow new ones need to be able to get a sense of who the character has been in the past – this is done rather well here).
There’s an old-fashioned feel to the way the story pans out and I could feel the influence of Agatha Christie in the way the plot came together and eventually played out.
What slightly drags down my rating is the depth to which aspects of the information relating to history and collecting are explored. The facts are interesting and unusual, but they cross the limit in terms of interrupting the plot for too long, at least to my taste. I think Mr Block might also feel this; he practically says so:
‘If you already know all this, skip ahead...I’m just summing up here, but my feelings won’t be hurt if you choose not to read every precious word.’
That one issue aside, I did enjoy this trip to New York to meet up with Bernie anew and I hope I’ll get to pop over again at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Profile Image for Eric_W.
1,924 reviews369 followers
July 4, 2014
“Every passion is interesting to him who suffers from it. And one sometimes feels impelled to inflict it on others.” That could be the motto of this book. I suspect, that in addition to stamps, of which we learn a great deal in the Keller series, Block is enamored of political buttons and hoards of historical trivia. Did you know that Vermont had been a republic that had issued its own coinage? From 1777 to 1791, it was, when it split off from New York, when the colonies revolted and Vermont decide to revolt against New York. Its independence was recognized by New York in 1791 when it then decided to join the United States as the Fourteenth. State, especially after it was not permitted to join Quebec.

I mention this only because there are substantial passages in the book where the man who hires Bernie to steal a couple of things related to buttons, goes on at some length about various things. Now, it so happens, that I enjoy learning about stamps and buttons and other little arcane facts such as William Howard Taft being known as Billy Possum and Eugene Debs running for office while being incarcerated for his opposition to WW I so his buttons had imprinted on them, “For President: Convict No. 9563.” Fascinating. Not to mention the Apostles spoons.

We all love the Bernie Rhodenbarr series of books. Bernie, you may remember, owns a used book store, but steals things on the side. It’s quite interesting. I’ve listened to Block read his books, and there is a certain rhythm and cadence that I feel when I’m reading them, not unpleasant, just uniquely his style.

There’s one passage that I just have to quote. Bernie has been approached by a customer and they begin discussing first editions of Gatsby. They conclude precisely what I feel about the book.

“The Great American novel? No, hardly that. The puzzle of Gatsby is how so many otherwise perceptive people can find so much to admire in it. Do you know why Jay Gatsby is such an enigma? It’s because Fitzgerald himself never had a clue who the fellow was. An arriviste, a parvenu, an upstart if you will, a man who made big money in a hurry and got his hands just a little dirty in the process. Hardly a rarity at the time, and there was a fellow in Boston with a similar story who got his son elected to the White House. Fitzgerald didn’t know what to make of Gatsby, and the literary establishment has responded by enshrining his bafflement. So no, I don’t think much of Gatsby, or your Mr. Fitzgerald.”

The plot revolves around a short story written by Alexander Roda Roda (not to mention puns on Doran Doran and Meyer Meyer not to be confused with Meyer Meyers) and published several years before Fitzgerald’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” appeared in Collier’s magazine yet the premise of the story was the same, an individual is born old and then gets gradually younger. But the key is on his name.

Bibliophiles and trivialists will certainly enjoy this book especially. Five stars for a great story with lots of trivia. Two stars for those people who will get bogged down by the detailed information. So 3.5 stars rounded off to 4.
Profile Image for Lois.
73 reviews20 followers
June 25, 2015
I expected too much from this book. I was hunting for a crime caper, Lawrence Block was recommended, and of the two Lawrence Block books in the bookstore, this was the one with the best title. "The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons." As far as I was concerned, the title sold it. Perhaps I should have wondered why there were only two books stocked when this is the eleventh in a series.

The title is still the most amusing part of the book for me. Bernie Rhodenbarr just wasn't very interesting. He should have been. He was well-read, so much so that I couldn't follow most of his references, and he didn't care to enlighten me. He was quirky, being a burglar on the side, but unscrewing a toilet window so you can climb through it later didn't fire my imagination. There was no thrill that he might be caught. The detective work aspect made the story interesting for a while, but that was mostly because the policeman who cropped up at those parts was the most interesting character in the book by miles.

A few other gripes about the book. Bernie is an attractive guy. So attractive that he flirts with, dates or is otherwise involved with multiple different woman in this book, in fact almost all of the female 'leads' in the story. So in one respect he's being sold as a popular guy. And yet, he has only one friend, who he has inane conversations with, which makes his social life a complete contrast. If he was very introverted, and struggled when women were attracted to him, I'd understand, but instead I find him too contradictory to be human. I also appreciated the gentlemanly like manner in which he decided not to tell the reader about his night with one of the women. But I didn't appreciate the fact that he spent a paragraph lording it over the reader that he wasn't going to tell them about it, and then proceeded to drop hints about it for the rest of the book. As if the reader was desperate to know.

I noticed that several of the characters were too similar. Like Bernie, several would say, "have you heard about..(something the reader probably hasn't)...well let me just tell you about it for a paragraph." Only one character should do that, and if they heard a second character do it, they would definitely take notice.

So I am surprised that this series has a lot of fans. Perhaps I went in aiming too high. But the reason I finished this book in one sitting is because I knew I wouldn't pick it up again if I sat it down halfway through. I have given two stars, because I will grant that it was well structured plot-wise and some justice was served at the end.
Profile Image for Sonya Serial Reader.
280 reviews332 followers
January 10, 2017
Honte de dire que c'est le premier Lawrence Block que je lis, mais sûrement pas le dernier. C'était une sacrée découverte!
L'intrigue, bien que simple, est bien ficelée, le style d'écriture sobre et efficace sans prise de tête, lmais le point fort reste les personnages hauts en couleur notamment le personnage principal: Bernie...... .
Dans la lignée de Arsène Lupin et de Parker (de Richard Stark) Bernie est un cambrioleur on ne peut plus charismatique, un vrai gentleman. Astucieux, scrupuleux (il va jusqu'à aider son meilleur ennemi policier à mener une enquête), passionné, cinéphile, désabusé et...libraire! Oui, notre (anti) héros est le propriétaire d'une librairie qui lutte pour survivre dans l'ère du numérique, heureusement qu'il était voleur à gage dans les heures de fermeture.
Ce livre fourmille de références littéraires, d'anecdotes (historiquement avérées) sur les écrivains, les peintres, et les artiste de tout genre car le "client" de Bernie cette fois est un collectionneur très particulier, prêt à tout pour acquérir les objets de sa convoitise.
En effet, en lisant ce livre j'ai appris des choses, j'ai redécouvert d'autres, j'ai rit à haute voix, -les échanges entre Bernie et sa meilleure amie lesbienne Carolyn étant juste hilarants- et j'ai été complètement sous le charme. Décidément, l'année 2017 commence bien.
Profile Image for Alecia.
Author 3 books35 followers
January 27, 2014
As always, reading Lawrence Block is a pleasure for me. I love his sly, wry humor, and I am always sure to have a fun reading experience. As a voracious reader, I really enjoy that our protagonist, Bernie Rhodenbarr is a bookstore owner. The little snippets of knowledge and references to various authors and antiquarian books abound and make this series fun for bookworms to read. Bernie is also a thief with his own code of ethics. He abhors violence and usually the people he steals from can afford to miss a piece or two. He also spends some of his time helping a policeman who is wise to Bernie's other job of burgling. He usually suspects Bernie of a nefarious deed, and Bernie then helps him solve the crime to save himself. This book is basically the same scenario, only the booty and body have changed. Bernie's best friend, Carolyn, is along for the ride again, and the two trade quips as they meet for lunch and drinks, and she provides some assistance while he solves a case. I love that she calls him "Bern".
Profile Image for Jessica.
597 reviews27 followers
January 5, 2018
It is impossible for me to be objective when it comes to Bernie Rhodenbarr. I have loved this series for 25 years and was excited to see one more entry. The mystery is fine; if you want an introduction to these characters, I recommend starting the series from the beginning. The way you are supposed to read a series. Beginning to end. Don't @ me. ;)
Profile Image for Clarabel.
3,275 reviews27 followers
May 13, 2019
Premier roman que je lis de Lawrence Block et de Bernie Rhodenbarr.
J'ai aimé l'ambiance de la librairie, la relation amicale entre le héros et sa voisine Carolyn, leurs soirées à boire du bourbon et manger leur fameuse Écluse Panama. On se sent entre potes, c'est convivial et sans chichis. Pour un décor, c'est vraiment pas mal.
Ensuite, vient l'histoire. Là, ça m'embête un peu car elle m'est apparue décousue et plate. Un M. Smith demande à notre ami de chaparder quelques précieux objets pour assouvir sa passion de F. S. Fitzgerald. Le meurtre d'une vieille dame intervient. La police prospecte. Et Bernie soliloque sur ses amours.
J'ai parfois eu l'impression que l'auteur étalait sa culture littéraire pour compenser l'absence d'intrigue. Résultat, on se noie aussi dans cette science - aussi croustillante soit-elle - mais on perd le fil en se demandant où on est. Ça a du charme, toutefois c'est assez standard et pépère.
Profile Image for David Highton.
2,965 reviews14 followers
December 3, 2018
Bernie uses all his skills to acquire some items for a rich sponsor and then uses them to solve a murder. Intermingled with the usual great banter with his friend Carolyn and Ray the NYPD cop. And some opportunities to enhance his sex life.
Profile Image for K.
918 reviews11 followers
October 1, 2016
I've just become a fan of Lawrence Block's irreverent and witty burglar, Bernie Rhodenbarr. A far cry from the Mathew Scudder character by this author, this made for lighthearted and wry, humorous reading. It reminded me of the Dortmunder series by Donald Westlake-- if you enjoy that kind of witty writing, this will please you as well. Block is a gifted writer and I truly enjoyed the structure of this story, with Bernie starting out doing what he does best -- being a skilled burglar. But as we see and, I presume, as is the formula for this series, he switches gears and uses his skills to solve a murder / crime and wraps things up by the end of the story. There were plenty of twists and a nice counterbalancing of Bernie's "work" with glimpses of his personal life.
I like this character and plan to read many more of the series-- in order if I can-- or not, as the case may be.
Profile Image for SueEllen.
75 reviews1 follower
May 19, 2015
Well, maybe I shouldn't have marked it "read" since I didn't finish it. I have read other books in the series and was excited to see this one. The first couple of chapters were interesting but then there was way too much conversation and too many history lessons to hold my attention. I needed something with more action and less worrying about how life could be different. So maybe it was me and not the book......
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