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Bernie Rhodenbarr Books In Order

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Publication Order of Bernie Rhodenbarr Books

Burglars Can't Be Choosers (1977)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar in the Closet (1978)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling (1979)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza (1980)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian (1983)Description / Buy at Amazon
Like a Thief in the Night (1983)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar Takes a Cat (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart (1995)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar in the Library (1997)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar in the Rye (1998)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar Who Dropped in on Elvis (1999)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar on the Prowl (2001)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar Who Smelled Smoke (2011)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Bad Night for Burglars (2011)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (2013)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar in Short Order (2020)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Bernie Rhodenbarr is a burglar with a good side. Sure, he may enjoy the thrill of successfully committing a lucrative burglary, but that isn’t all that defines this character. Specializing in lock-picking and the other half of that tandem, breaking and entering, Rhodenbarr can gain access to just about anywhere.

With this skill set, Rhodenbarr sets out to accumulate a substantial monetary safety net that most people can only dream of. In a loose sense, Bernie is a modern-day Robin Hood, though the poor he is helping could rarely constitute their own work group, and call upon smoke-and-mirror tactics to get lost among a crowd.

Rhodenbarr was first introduced in Burglars Can’t Be Choosers (1977). In what set the benchmark for a fairly repetitive plot sequence, the reader is introduced to the story of a man who spends weeks planning out every little detail of a heist and escape. Then, during some part of the heist, our burglar will come across a dead body somewhere in the building. Thus, our hero is launched into an investigation to attempt to clear his name and aid the police force in general. Our burglar uses his strategy as a thief to attempt to clear his name by any means necessary.

In total, Rhodenbarr has been a character in 12 novels and four short stories. What that means for readers is a plethora of hijinks and clever twists from author Lawrence Block. Over the course of the series, the settings and ancillary events change and adapt to the burglar and as events change in his life. At one point, he buys a bookstore to operate and, according to the author, he uses the bookstore as a means to meet women and facilitate his active sex life. His sex life is implied or touched upon at least once every novel.

Along with his tendency to enjoy a vibrant sex life, Rhodenbarr also enjoys a nice Scotch to sooth his ever-racing mind. The only time his mind is free of alcoholic influence, however, is in the hours that lead up to any of his master plans.

Along with our main character, there are a few other characters that help Bernie in his missions and quests to save his name. One of his cohorts, Ray Kirschmann, is a detective in the NYC police force. Due to that connection to the legal realm, Ray cannot actually help his friend conduct big heists, but he is generally able to stay in the dark until the climax of the novels.

Carolyn Kaiser is Bernie’s best friend, lesbian soulmate, and sometimes partner in crime. She operates a pet-grooming salon close to Bernie’s bookstore. The two frequently meet for drinks and to discuss their businesses and love interests. Their chats allow the author to display his wit and mention favorite authors.

Wally Hemphill is Bernie’s lawyer. They met while jogging, and Bernie subsequently called Wally to bail him out of jail after his former lawyer died. Wally helped negotiate the sale of the Barnegat Books building to Bernie. He also practices martial arts, which was helpful in a novel when he apprehended an escaping suspect.

Marty Gilmartin is a wealthy businessman who met Bernie after an attempted burglary at his home. He sometimes helps Bernie by identifying potential victims, usually rich people with a cash-flow problem who would like to collect on their insurance policy by reporting a burglary. This, in fact, is how the Barnegat Books building purchase was financed (The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams).

In the first novel of the series, Burglars Can’t Be Choosers, the reader is introduced to the main character, Bernie Rhodenbarr. According to the man himself, the poor have nothing that can be targeted for high-level stealing. Instead, he focuses on the high-profile people of New York, the people who collect fancy artwork and jewelry. What ensues next is what can only be described as being in the worst possible place at the worst possible time. Avoiding the police and dodging bullets left and right, Bernie must fight to prove his innocence and avoid any long-term stints in jail.

In the second novel of the series, The Burglar in the Closet, Bernie hears about some diamonds that he would love to have in his possession. His dentist, a rather open talker, lets this detail slip while performing some work on his patient. Later that night, Bernie goes for broke trying to obtain the diamonds, but someone has beaten him to it. Now, stuck in a closet in full view of a dead body, Rhodenbarr must once again fight to prove that he was not the assailant, merely a bystander. In 1987, this novel was adapted into a film entitled Burglar, starring Whoopi Goldberg as “Bernice Rhodenbarr.”

Readers enjoy these novels because they depict a world where not everything goes as planned and not everyone is who they seem. Our “hero” is a bookstore owner who moonlights as a professional burglar. His burglary skills are impressive when unimpeded, an event that has yet to happen in the series. The readers get to follow the twists and turns with the characters as they laugh their way through the pages.

If you are looking for a nice, quick read, these stories may be just the ticket for you. The only character with any real development is Bernie. The rest of the characters included in the stories lack development and personality. All of this gives room for Bernie to out-think and out-sleuth any other characters.

Currently, the final book of the series (2022) is titled The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown. Bernie is faced with security cameras in every nook and cranny these days, as well as unpickable, high-tech locks, but he has a reprieve from all that thanks to a sci-fi twist. And then there is that enticing Kloppmann Diamond…

Book Series In Order » Characters » Bernie Rhodenbarr

One Response to “Bernie Rhodenbarr”

  1. abdiesus: 8 years ago

    “What are the dragons doing during this time? Most had thought them dead, due mainly in regards to no one having seen them. Pool maintenance is all you. ” uh….wtf?


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