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Literature / Bernie Rhodenbarr

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The "Bernie Rhodenbarr" novels are a series by Lawrence Block, about the adventures of Gentleman Thief / bookseller Bernie Rhodenbarr. Bernie owns a bookstore in New York City, and uses it as a cover and ostensible source of income; his actual income comes largely from relieving wealthy New Yorkers of their coin collections, jewelry and other such fenceable, untraceable valuables.

In the course of his burglarious career, Bernie often stumbles across murder victims, and to keep himself out of trouble, ends up having to solve them, often with the help of his friends: a rather corrupt Friend on the Force and a lesbian dog-groomer.

The second book in the series, The Burglar in the Closet, was loosely adapted into the 1987 film Burglar, starring Whoopi Goldberg as a gender-bent Bernie.

Books in this series:

  1. Burglars Can't Be Choosers (1977)
  2. The Burglar in the Closet (1978)
  3. The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling (1979)
  4. The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza (1980)
  5. The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian (1983)
  6. The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams (1994)
  7. The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart (1995)
  8. The Burglar in the Library (1997)
  9. The Burglar in the Rye (1999)
  10. The Burglar on the Prowl (2004)
  11. The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (2013)

These books include the following tropes:

  • Beneath Suspicion: The murderer in The Burglar in the Rye is Bernie's best friend's new girlfriend, who up to that point had only been participating in the B-plot.
  • Closed Circle: A broken bridge and a blizzard trap the assorted guests (including the murderer) at Cuttleford House in The Burglar in the Library.
  • Does Not Like Guns: Bernie hates guns. Given his profession, this is quite understandable.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Bernie's a thief, sure...but he abhors violence and only steals from wealthy people who can afford the losses.
  • Phoney Call: In The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian, Bernie pretends to be a flower deliveryman to get into a high-security apartment building. When the tenant he hands them to protests that they can't be for her, he asks to use her phone so he can straighten things out. He then calls his friend Carolyn and pretends he's talking to his "boss."
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: J. Rudyard Whelkin's efforts not to get caught conning a rich, powerful admirer of Adolf Hitler drive the plot of The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: In The Burglar in the Library, since there have been two murders in an English country house in a Closed Circle, the remaining guests panic, suspecting an elaborate Ten Little Murder Victims plot to wipe them all out. Bernie, who is visiting in order to steal an item given to Dashiell Hammett by Raymond Chandler, eventually figures out that the victims were killed because the murderer thought they had found out about his plan to frame his wife for his embezzlement, murder her and abscond with the money.