Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: The Hot Rock

The Hot Rock 
by Donald E. Westlake

Book 1 in the Dortmunder series

Read: 10–15 October 2010
Pages: 287

John Dortmunder left prison with the warm words of the warden ringing in his ears and not one chance of going straight. Soon Dortmunder was riding in a stolen Cadillac with venetian blinds, reuniting with old friends and scheming to heist a large emerald belonging to a small African nation. As always, his planning is meticulous. As always, the execution is not. Undaunted, Dortmunder is now chasing the gem by plane, train and automobile. Because this hot rock has a way of getting stolen – not just once, but again and again and again...

Humorous Heists

It's no secret that I have a soft spot for charming thieves and con artists. You know, the kind like Robert Redford in The Sting. So when I heard about the Dortmunder series by Donald E. Westlake, I was very excited. John Dortmunder may be a little rough around the edges compared to say, Danny Ocean, but he's just as clever and inventive. And he certainly has to be in this caper, because with this particular jewel, luck is definitely not on his side.

To help him steal the Balabomo Emerald Dortmunder enlists Kelp, who specializes in stealing cars with MD plates (doctors tend to leave their keys in the ignition), Chefwick, a model train enthusiast, Murch, the driver, and Greenwood, "utility outfielder" and popular with the ladies. As this is a fairly short book, there is no real character development, but all the characters are well fleshed-out and have specific personalities. They're mostly good guys stealing because that is the one job they are good at – well, the job they are best at, anyway.

This is a humorous read with its motley crew of characters, spectacular heists and unexpected twists and turns. I could easily see this made into a movie, and I was very happy when I found it had been – with none other than Robert Redford as John Dortmunder. I'm very much looking forward to watching it, as well as reading the next Dortmunder novel.

My rating: 4/6

The Dortmunder series
The Hot Rock (1970)
Bank Shot (1972)
Jimmy the Kid (1974)
Nobody's Perfect (1977)
Why Me? (1983)
Good Behaviour (1987)
Drowned Hopes (1990)
Don't Ask (1993)
What's the Worst That Could Happen? (1996)
Bad News (2001)
The Road to Ruin (2004)
Thieves' Dozen (2004)
Watch Your Back! (2005)
What's So Funny? (2007)
Get Real (2009)

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