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Publisher's Summary

John Dortmunder and company are hired by an U.N. African Ambassador to steal the famed Balabomo Emerald from the hands of a rival African country. But their daring and clever burglarly goes awry, and the emerald slips through their fingers. Undaunted, Dortmunder chases the gem by plane, train and automobile in hot pursuit of the hot rock.
Listen to another Dortmunder caper.
©1970 Donald E. Westlake (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"Westlake's novel comes awesomely close to the ultimate in comic, big-caper novels; it's so filled with…action and imagination." ( New York Times Book Review)
"Westlake is a master hand at the running gag….This Westlake brought on such a case of the laughing bends that I required decompression." ( Washington Post)
All-Time Top 100 Mysteries (Mystery Writers of America)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By William R. on 08-25-11

Dortmunder is on his game in this fun introduction

As usually happens when my favorite authors are having a dry spell, I start looking up new books to kill some time. And as usually happens, I find some fun story with great characters just to learn later it was part of a series. Back in '07 I was struggling to find something a bit more upbeat and found a book called The Road to Ruin (not listed as a series at the time) and fell in love with Dortmunder and his cast of flagrant friends.

Now that all Dortmunder books are available in audio, I decided to go back in time to 1970 and listen from the beginning. Being a technology buff and a lover of all things new and shiny, I was worried about getting into a book series that took place so long ago. This was not a problem at all and aside from some period moments, this book reads (well, listens) like it could have happened yesterday.

John Dortmunder is a non-violent criminal with particularly good expertise in planning impossible capers. The entire book surrounds an African tribe that wants their sacred stone stolen from a museum. The gang heists the rock just for it to be lost in a very odd place. To get the rock back, the team jumps into action yet again with another crazy scheme. The scheme works but the rock is still on the move to another location. Wash, rinse and repeat...

The book moves along at a swift pace, introduces a manageable cast of characters and gets some good laughs along the way. Some of my favorite parts of this book -- and is carried out in future books -- is how Dortmunder and the team work. You get to hear how they come up with their plans, their sometimes laugh-out-loud approaches to dealing with the people paying them and how well the team works together as a cohesive group. Dortmunder may be the main character in this book but he is not quite the leader, more of the coordinator and not everything he says gets done his way.

A great start to a fantastic series. I am looking forward to more!

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10 of 10 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Mike From Mesa on 08-15-13

Wonderful fun.

I bought this book looking for something a bit lighter than the histories and biographies I had been reading and was delighted with my choice. I guessed that any book that had as many sequels as the Dortmunder books was probably worth taking the time to read and I was well pleased with the choice.

Dortmunder is, of course, a career criminal and that is not someone I could normally identify with. He makes his living stealing and, at the start of the book, is leaving prison after two convictions. Another conviction means life in prison. That might be enough incentive for most people to try to make an honest living, but not Dortmunder. I suppose what makes him an interesting character is the bad luck that follows his actions. In this story he, and his fellow criminals, have to commit a whole series of crimes to try to rescue their initial prize with each attempt funnier and more complex than the last. All the characters associated with Dortmunder are interesting and, while reading, I could not help but think of Damon Runyon's characters.

Of course no one in this story is an innocent bystander so the long series of mis-chances that take place are comical and the ending is absolutely inspired. I was so pleased with this book that I rented the dvd of the movie. While that was a terrible mistake (the movie is just awful) the book is a gem. I have decided to read more books in this series and have already added "Nobodys Perfect" to my Wish List. It is hard to believe that other books in the series will equal this one in sheer enjoyment but I will see …

The book is excellently read by Jeff Woodman and I recommend it as a light read good for a lot of laughs, some of them guffaws.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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