The 13th workout for the funny bone featuring John Dortmunder, his inept crew and a massively over-attended burglary.
The problem with being a career criminal is that sooner or later someone will catch you and blackmail you into committing a caper that has disaster written all over it. Johnny Eppick, a cop turned p.i. who has the goods on Dortmunder, coerces him into stealing a chess set for a client who thinks it ought to belong to him rather than a dead Czar. The set reposes in a subterranean vault under a bank under floors of lawyers’ offices, where the Northwood descendants of the original looter are squabbling over custody of it, unaware that the original Northwood’s co-conspirator’s descendant, wheelchair-bound Hemlow, wants the share he was cheated out of. The problem of how to get the jewel-encrusted chess set out of that vault is compounded by Hemlow’s granddaughter Fiona, a lawyer who’ll allow only so many illegalities; her cartoonist boyfriend Brian; a pair of freeloaders nestled in Hemlow’s Massachusetts rural estate; and enough security forces to safeguard a small country, though not enough to keep to a timetable. Dortmunder and his band manage to lift the chess set, but not for long.
More characters than at Agincourt, each with a wicked way with a punch line, and a plot twist that lands this firmly in Westlake’s own screwball territory (Watch Your Back, 2005, etc.).