There are 11 books in Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr series. I finished them all, nine of them in the last two months. They all have the same premise: Bernie the burglar breaks into a place to steal something, runs across a dead body he had nothing to do with, gets arrested for the murder by a cop who knows he didn't do it, then must solve the crime to save his rear end and the theft gets overlooked as long as he shares the proceeds with the cop.
They're predictable, but funny and clever. Sometimes overly clever. But the witty banter and one-liners throughout the books kept me coming back.
Here's a sampling:
The Burglar in the Closet
Describing a cop: "He had bigger shoulders than most people, and very widely spaced eyes, as if while in the womb he'd toyed with the idea of becoming Siamese twins and decided against it at the last minute."
The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling
"When you don't know what you're looking for you have a great advantage, because you don't know what you'll find."
On a middle-class neighborhood: "Three out of four houses there contain at least one woman who plays mah-jongg when she's not at a Weight Watchers meeting."
On his friend, a dog-groomer: "She stands five-one in high heels and never wears them, and she's built like a fire hydrant, which is dangerous in her line of work."
"He wore a khaki army shirt, unbuttoned, and beneath it his T-shirt advertised the year's fashionable beer, a South Dakota brand reputedly brewed with organic water."
When a man says: "Ask me anything." He responds: "What's the capital of South Dakota?"
The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza
Bernie's friend Carolyn: "I can resist anything but temptation."
The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian
Carolyn on her looming hangover: "Bernie, I got news for you. I'm not gonna be clearheaded in the morning. I'm gonna have a head like a soccer ball that Pele got pissed at."
The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams
Bernie after he quit jogging: "I still wear running shoes - they work just as well at low speeds."
The Burglar In The Library
A murder suspect: "I don't know who picked you to be the head wallaby in this kangaroo court."
The Burglar In The Rye
A suspect: "He was a hall monitor his junior year, did you know that? He was in the Latin Honor Society, he played trombone in the school band. Did you know that?"
Bernie: "I know the capital of South Dakota."
"That's neither here nor there."
Bernie: "It's not here, but I'm pretty sure it's there."
The Burglar On The Prowl
"I don't play cards with men named Doc or eat at places called Mom's."
"The windows on all four floors were darker than a burglar's conscience."
"If there's a way to avoid shaking a hand that's thrust at me, I've yet to figure it out, and I always wind up taking the proffered hand before I have time to wonder whether or not it's something I really want to do."
Carolyn: "Bern who has one drink? It's like one pant or one scissor. They come in pairs. Nobody has just one drink."
The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons
Carolyn: "You've got an alibi but you want to keep it to yourself, and how can it do you any good that way? What is she, Bernie, married? Are you droppin' your load in some other man's Maytag?"