One of the most highly-regarded mystery writers in the business, Lawrence Block has written over 50 novels during his career. He was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America and was awarded the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award by Mystery Ink.

Bernie Rhodenbarr books by Lawrence Block that I have read

Burglars Can't Be Choosers by Lawrence Block
1. Burglars Can’t Be Choosers (1977)

Back of the book summary: In Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, Lawrence Block delivers a one-two punch of fast action and faster wit, and proves not only that crime does pay, but that it’s really funny. Welcome, reader, to Bernie Rhodenbarr’s world of crime, where he’ll steal your heart — and probably something else. Bernie, suddenly on the run, couldn’t ask for a better place to hide than the anonymous streets of New York City — except for the fact his face is now in every tabloid newspaper and on every television newscast. Holing up at an out-of-town friend’s apartment, he meets up with a lovely young lady ready with aid and comfort….and other resources. At last Bernie’s got some time to figure out what’s going on, and who set him up. And why.

The Burglar in the Closet by Lawrence Block
2. The Burglar in the Closet (1978)

Back of the book summary: At a routine teeth-cleaning Bernie Rhodenbarr discovers a few things. One, he’s got a cavity. Two, his dentist is unhappily married. Three, his dentist knows Bernie’s a burglar. Seems good old Dr. Sheldrake is in need of a burglar to steal back some valuable diamonds from the soon-to-be-ex-Mrs. Sheldrake. Next thing Bernie realizes he’s prowling around Crystal Sheldrake’s apartment when someone comes through the door. With only one place to hide, Bernie slips into the closet. Time passes, he emerges and there’s the lovely Crystal Sheldrake lying dead on the floor. To top it all off, the diamonds are gone. With his nemesis Detective Ray Kirschmann hot on his trail, Bernie starts chatting up suspects, chasing down a killer….and wishing he had just stayed in the closet.

The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling by Lawrence Block
3. The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling (1979)

Back of the book summary: 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 heist goes off without a hitch. The delivery of the ill-gotten volume, however, is a different story. Drugged by the client’s female go-between, Bernie wakes up in her apartment to find the book gone, the lady dead, a smoking gun in his hand, and the cops at the door. And suddenly he’s got to extricate himself from a rather sticky real-life murder mystery and find a killer — before he’s booked for Murder One.

The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza
4. The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza (1980)

Back of the book summary: Bookselling burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr doesn’t generally get philosophical about his criminal career. He’s good at it, it’s addictively exciting — and it pays a whole lot better than pushing old tomes. 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. There’s no time to get all existential about it — especially after the coin vanishes and the fence fencing it meets with a most severe end. But Bernie is going to have to do some deep thinking to find a way out of this homicidal conundrum.

The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian by Lawrence Block
5. The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian (1983)

Back of the book summary: It’s not that used bookstore owner and part-time burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr belives the less legal of his two professions is particularly ethical. (It is, however, a rush, and he is very good at it.) he just thinks it’s unfair to face a prison term for his legitimate activities. After appraising the worth of a rich man’s library — conveniently leaving his fingerprints everywhere in the process — Bernie finds he’s the cops’ prime suspect when his client is murdered. 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 by Lawrence Block
6. The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams (1994)

Mini book review: Like just about every kid born in the 1970s, I collected baseball cards in my youth. (In fact, with a quick glance, I know that the two prominent cards on the book’s cover are Don Mattingly and Ryne Sandberg Topps rookie cards.) In the 1980s, people made fortunes from cardboard as the prices for certain rookie cards skyrocketed. That market crashed in the 1990s and today, most cards are worth a fraction of what they were in their heyday. As you might suspect from the title, The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams focuses on the theft of several valuable baseball cards. Enter Bernie Rhodenbarr, the book’s main character, who just happens to be a burglar. Only Bernie didn’t steal the cards. As in the previous five books in the series, Bernie tries to clear his name from one heist, while committing several others. Like baseball and baseball cards, this book is old school, similar to other Lawrence Block novels. A drink at lunch, coffee with every meal and cops on the take, this New York City is just as one would suspect it was before Rudy Giuliani cleaned things up. Block also flaunts the intellectual side of the Big Apple, as there are numerous references to literature and the arts and Bernie’s best friend is a female with an alternative lifestyle. (In an interesting touch, Rhodenbarr owns a used bookstore, which gives Block the ability to freely write about other authors. The running joke encompassing pages of dialogue in this book is Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series featuring Kinsey Millhone.) As in all Block novels, the pace is steady and never frantic, the story builds to a climax and then things wrap up very nicely in the end. And while you may think you know where things are headed, there is always a twist or turn that you just hadn’t thought of. Which, of course, makes you keep coming back for more.

Bernie Rhodenbarr books by Lawrence Block on my reading list

The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart
7. The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart (1995)

The Burglar in the Library by Lawrence Block
8. The Burglar in the Library (1997)

The Burglar in the Rye by Lawrence Block
9. The Burglar in the Rye (1999)

The Burglar on the Prowl by Lawrence Block
10. The Burglar on the Prowl (2004)