Saturday, July 19, 2008

26. Road to Ruin by Donald E. Westlake

Road to Ruin picture
Richard Stark is one of my all-time favourite authors. Stark is one of the many pseudonyms of Donald E. Westlake. As Westlake, his best known creation is probably the Dortmunder books, a series of comic crime capers starring a sad-sack heister and his crew, whose jobs always go hilariously wrong. At their worst, the Dortmunder novels are light fun with an old school New York twist. A few of them are near masterpieces of crime comedy (Drowned Hopes comes to mind). Road to Ruin falls closer to the former category.

The plot setup is a good one. A formerly powerful executive gets busted for ripping off his shareholders and is basically confined to his compound in rural New Jersey. He still has tons of money squirreled away in offshore bank accounts that the Feds can't get at, plus a massive collection of collectibles, including fancy cars. Because he is so hated (his case was a big media splash), he can't get anyone to work for him. Dortmunder and crew conspire to get hired by him in order to steal his cars. At the same time, two different groups (bilked angel investors and angry union members) are plotting to exact their revenge on the executive. The characters are funny and there is a lot of entertaining stuff going on. Unfortunately, it never comes to quite the head it could and instead of exploding in the glorious chaos that often characterizes the end of a Dortmunder book, it all kind of fizzles out. It's a quick and enjoyable read and Dortmunder fans will be happy to be back in his universe. But I'd recommend some of the earlier Dortmunder's if you are only going to read a few.

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