Friday, August 27, 2010
Review of The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza by Lawrence Block (No Exit Press, 1980)
Block writes in a confident, easy style. The premise is interesting in that Rhodenbarr doesn’t consider himself a ‘real’ criminal, but something of an honest rogue who has standards and ethics, and he invites the reader to identify with him and imagine playing a similar role. The story is well structured and paced, but it feels formulaic and writing by numbers. As such, I found it a little tired, with the story lacking bite; it all feels a little comfortable and cozy with no edge or tension. Whilst there is reference to Spinoza and some flirting with philosophy this is a straight-up slice of entertainment. Perhaps most frustrating plot-wise is a resolution that rests on a marginal coincidence, which is okay, but a little clunky. What makes the book enjoyable are the characters, the gentle humour and the premise. Rhodenbarr, Kaiser and Crowe work well together, and the other characters well penned. Overall, entertaining enough to pass a couple of evenings, but doesn’t set one’s pulse racing.