The Burglar Who Stole My Heart

Did I mention that I like to read? And that my favorite genre is mystery?
I have 16 shelves of books devoted to various mysteries, most being books in series, some single examples. I think there are more in the basement. And in my bedroom. And on my Kindle.

This love of mysteries started in grade school with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and the Three Investigators. In junior high I moved up to Barbara Michaels and Mary Stewart, and was glad that the ladies were prolific writers. When I was 19, I joined The Mystery Guild and branched out.

And then one day, I fell in love with a burglar.

Bernie Rhodenbarr began letting himself into houses without a key a year or two before I graduated from high-school. When I met him, he’d already pulled a couple of jobs, nearly gone down for murder, and dealt justice to a few scoundrels. I immediately ordered the rest of the series and waited impatiently for more.

Bernie is a pretty unassuming guy to be the hero of a whole series. He’s a quiet bachelor who’s kind to his elderly neighbor, appreciates the art he steals, and loves to read. He’s a little of a renaissance man, appreciating fine cognac, attending the occasional play or concert, dining at a private club, dressing correctly for every occasion. A decent, steady kind of fellow. And then he’s also a dashing rogue, who just occasionally opens locked doors, helps himself to a few choice morsels, and thoughtfully locks up behind himself when he leaves.

Alas, Bernie’s creator, Lawrence Block, was enjoying the adventures of Matt Scudder and Evan Tanner, and he ignored Bernie for years at a time. After The Burglar in the Rye, back at the turn of the century (this one,) I’d not heard from Bernie again except when a sleepless night sent me on a visit to a familiar adventure. My copies of the Burglar books are well worn and showing their age now, a little like me.

BUT HE’S BACK! This year for Christmas, Block is treating us to another adventure with the gentleman burglar, and if you haven’t fallen in love with Bernie in the past, here’s your chance. We find our rogue hero doing what he does best—selling books in his book store, that is. Can he help it that people look him up there and offer tempting challenges? Soon he’s deeply involved in rounding up early American silver, solving a murder for his old friend Ray, and enjoying his popularity with the ladies. With his henchperson to help and some unofficial investigating along the way, Bernie soon puts things to right. Well, maybe not right, but at least all the guilty pay.

Through the years, as I and my books got older, Bernie didn’t age much, but he kept up with the times. When we started off together, he didn’t even have a cell phone. These days, he’s using burner phones, googling bad guys and lamenting the popularity of Kindle.

I, too, lament the Kindle, even as I have decided I like reading with it. Yes, I love the feel and weight and smell and appearance of real books. In my fondest dream, I own a store like Bernie’s and sit among good friends and new aquaintences, surrounded by reading for every mood and need, sharing these treasures with customers and aquiring new ones. But unless I take up burglary, I’m as unlikely to be able to do that as I am to turn a corner in New York, wander into a bookstore and toss some wadded paper for Raffles while lunching with Bernie and Carolyn on Juneau Lock.

What does the future hold for Bernie? I don’t know if he’ll be back for another adventure. I always hope. But if this was the last time we hear from him, it was worth the wait, and so much fun that I might just start my second reading tonight.

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