Hemning Sternberg (moonshadow) wrote,
Hemning Sternberg
moonshadow

in praise of Lawrence Block

Recently I read the fantastic and funny Hit and Run, fourth in Block's series about Keller the hit man. However, those of you who have just tuned in may not yet know of my love for Block. So, instead, I am writing a this post in praise of this mystery writer and his several series.

My old friend zzbottom introduced me to Burglars Can't Be Choosers a long while back. I believe it was Block's first published novel. In Burglars Can't Be Choosers, the high-class cat burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr is shocked to discover a body in the apartment that he has been burgling. Alas, he discovers it after the police have found him in the apartment, and if you think this is leading towards him being the prime suspect in the murder, you'd be correct. The hapless Bernie must solve the mystery to get himself out from under. Like many of Block's works, this book takes place in New York City and has a wonderful sense of place.

After I had read five or six of the Rhodenbarr series, I picked up The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep by mistake. TTWCS features another eccentric character - Evan Tanner, writer of term papers for cheaters by day and a member of more secret societies than you can shake a stick at. Tanner's quirk? A combat injury to his brain has left him permanently unable to sleep. Through a series of events that you will have to read to believe, Tanner is drawn into a web of international espionage that will leave him hungry, muddy, and desperate to get home safely, with lots of laughs along the way. Tanner On Ice, the final book so far, is my favorite in the series.

Once I had exhausted the in-print possibilities of Evan Tanner, I came across Hit Man. Keller, just Keller, is a nice guy. He pays taxes, he likes the ladies, he does his jury duty when called. What is not obvious to everyone is that he is actually a hit man. Operating under the radar, Keller performs contract killings all over the country for his boss, The Old Man. This series now has four books and I think that the writing is consistently excellent throughout it - a notable feature in a world where most series go straight downhill after the first book or two. It is funny in a wry, dark sort of way.

The only series of Block's that I haven't been able to get into is that featuring the hardboiled police detective Matthew Scudder. I found it too bleak and a bit gruesome to boot, but if you like noir, give it a try.

I recommend Lawrence Block to anyone who likes mysteries. I strongly recommend him to those who enjoy the works of Carl Hiaasen.
Tags: books
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