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By the author of the Matthew Scudder series.
What is the Bernie Rhodenbarr series about?
Comic mystery novels written by American crime author Lawrence Block since 1977, the Bernie Rhodenbarr series is about a burglar who loves books.
In fact, Bernie Rhodenbarr is a good burglar who tends to trip on dead bodies during his jobs. He’s also not always a criminal. In fact, he tried to change and became legit when he became the owner of a used bookstore in New York’s Greenwich Village.
That doesn’t really stop him from pursuing his burglaries.
How to read Bernie Rhodenbarr Books in Order?
Every book in the Bernie Rhodenbarr series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- Burglars Can’t Be Choosers – Bernie is a burglar, a good one. But he occasionally makes mistakes. Like accepting a paid assignment from a total stranger to retrieve a particular item from a rich man’s apartment. Like still being there when the cops arrive. Like having a freshly slain corpse lying in the next room, and no proof that Bernie isn’t the killer.
- The Burglar in the Closet – It’s hard to ignore someone with his hands in your mouth. Bernie Rhodenbarr’s all ears when Dr. Sheldrake, his dentist, starts complaining about his detestable, soon-to-be-ex wife, and happens to mention the valuable diamonds she keeps lying around the apartment. Since Bernie’s been known to supplement his income as a bookstore owner with the not-so-occasional bout of high-rise burglary, a couple of nights later he’s in the Sheldrake apartment with larceny on his mind — and has to duck into a closet when the lady of the house makes an unexpected entrance. Unfortunately, he’s still there when an unseen assailant does Mrs. Sheldrake in . . . and then vanishes with the jewels.
- The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling – Bernie Rhodenbarr has gone legit — almost — as the new owner of a used bookstore in New York’s Greenwich Village. Of course, dusty old tomes don’t always turn a profit, so to make ends meet, Bernie’s forced, on occasion, to indulge in his previous occupation: burglary. Besides which, he likes it. Now a collector is offering Bernie an opportunity to combine his twin passions by stealing a very rare and very bad book-length poem from a rich man’s library.
- The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza – Bernie Rhodenbarr doesn’t generally get philosophical about his criminal career. He steals therefore he is, period. He might well ponder, however, the deeper meaning of events at the luxurious Chelsea brownstone of Herb and Wanda Colcannon, which is apparently burgled three times on the night Bernie breaks in: once before his visit and once after. Fortunately, he still manages to lift some fair jewelry and an extremely valuable coin. Unfortunately, burglar or burglars number three leave Herb unconscious and Wanda dead . . . and the cops think Rhodenbarr dunnit.
- The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian – Someone has framed Bernie Rhodenbarr better than they do it at the Whitney. And if he wants to get out of this corner he’s been masterfully painted into, he’ll have to get to the bottom of a rather artful — if multiply murderous — scam.
- The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams – And when the cops wrongly accuse Bernie Rhodenbarr of stealing a priceless collection of baseball cards, Bernie’s stuck with a worthless alibi since he was busy burgling a different apartment at the time . . . one that happened to contain a dead body locked inside a bathroom.
- The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart – When he’s hired to pilfer a portfolio of valuable documents from a Park Avenue apartment, Bernie can hardly refuse. But the occupant’s early return forces Bernie to flee empty-handed—and he soon finds himself implicated in a murder. Before you can say “who stole the strawberries?” he’s hunting for a killer, up to his neck in the outrageous intrigues of a tiny Balkan nation . . . and menaced by more sinister fat men and unsavory toadies than the great Bogie himself butted heads with in pursuit of that darn bird!
- The Burglar in the Library – Bernie’s sweetheart has dumped him. But although his heart is broken, he hasn’t lost his love for fine books – or for an occasional discrete burglary. So Bernie takes off for a snowy winter weekend at a country inn that just happens to have a rare, signed first edition of The Big Sleep in its library. It’s not long, however, before Bernie’s ex-girlfriend arrives with her new husband, a body is found in the library, and the book disappears.
- The Burglar in the Rye – Gulliver Fairborn’s novel, Nobody’s Baby, changed Bernie Rhodenbarr’s life. And now pretty Alice Cottrell, Fairborn’s one-time paramour, wants him to break into a room in New York’s teeth-achingly charming Paddington Hotel and purloin some of the writer’s very personal letters before an unscrupulous agent can sell them. Here’s an opportunity to use his unique talents in the service of the revered, famously reclusive author. But when Bernie gets there, the agent is dead . . . and Bernie’s wanted for murder.
- The Burglar on the Prowl – Bernie Rhodenbarr is more than willing to perform some vengeful larceny for a friend — ripping off a smarmy, particularly deserving plastic surgeon — for fun and a very tidy profit. But during a practice run at another address, Bernie’s forced to hide under a bed when the lady of the house returns unexpectedly with the worst kind of blind date in tow. In no time, Bernie’s up to his burgling neck in big trouble.
- The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons – Bernie Rhodenbarr and his lesbian sidekick Carolyn Kaiser are 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…
- The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown – You’ve got a dream job, running your own cozy secondhand bookstore, complete with Raffles, your caudally challenged cat. It’s in Greenwich Village, and your best friend’s dog grooming salon is two doors away, and the two of you lunch together and meet for drinks after work. And you’ve got another way to make a buck. Every once in a while you put your conscience on the shelf and let yourself into someone else’s residence, and you leave with more than you came with. You’re a burglar, and you know it’s wrong, but you love it.
- The Burglar in Short Order – For the first time ever collects all of Bernie’s short-form appearances in one complete volume. From the story in which a prototype of Bernie first appeared (“A Bad Night for Burglars”) to his appearances in Playboy and (maybe? It’s kinda complicated) Cosmopolitan…from an essay discussing Bernie’s misadventures in Hollywood (how in the world did Whoopi Goldberg ever get cast?) to a piece commissioned by a European publisher for a tourist guide to New York…you’ll find every published story, article, and stand-alone excerpt Bernie has ever appeared in – plus two new, unpublished pieces: an introduction discussing the character’s colorful origins and an afterword in which the author, contemplating retirement, comes face to face with his own creation.
What should you read if you like the Bernie Rhodenbarr novels?
If you like reading Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr series, you may be interested in Donald E. Westlake’s Dortmunder series and, of course, the Matthew Scudder series.