Originally published in June 2005, on my original 52 Books blog.
These are the first two books in a long-running series about burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr. Bernie is a cool character, perfectly immoral when it comes to other people’s property, daring, professional and charming. The books are a light-hearted blending of the traditional cozy mystery and the rogue genre, because the sleuth is a criminal. Being a criminal, he has obvious problems. The only cop likely to take him seriously is bent and needs to be bribed before he will do anything for him, and in both these books Bernie is a suspect in the murders, so has to go not only undercover to solve the murders, but on the lam as well to avoid being arrested for them.
I have read a fair number of rogue stories (e.g. Raffles, Arsene Lupin) but Bernie is the first of the rogue heroes I have really liked. I hated the Raffles stories - Raffles is mean and Bunny such a wimp that it’s a wonder anyone likes them at all, plus the stories are badly written, and several other rogue heroes are into tricking and taunting the police who of course are always dumber than jellyfish. Bernie is the first I have come across who seems to simply make a living off crime without wanting to attract attention or taunt the authorities, and the stories do not hinge on anyone being unnaturally stupid.
Rating: Light-hearted and entertaining murder mysteries with a likeable “hero”. 3+ stars.