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by Donald E. Westlake
Mysterious Press, April 2004
342 pages
ISBN: 089296801X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

From the king of comic capers comes this latest hilarious chapter in the screwball John Dortmunder saga. Poor old John is up to his ears in trouble again when he and his infamous sidekicks -- Andy, Stan, and Tiny -- agree to help ex-con-turned-chauffeur Chester Fallon steal two million dollars worth of cars from his former employer, business tycoon Monroe Hall.

For Dortmunder and his gang, the theft means a cool hundred grand apiece, compliments of Hall's insurance company. For Chester, it means not only a nice chunk of cash, but also sweet revenge on the man who ruined his life.

And revenge means a lot to Mr Fallon. He didn't deserve to lose his job, his home, his health insurance and retirement fund. But like every other employee of SomniTech, Chester is paying the price for Monroe Hall's financial chicanery. Not content with the millions he inherited, Hall has spent his lifetime plundering company funds. His thieving has finally come to an end -- thanks to a federal indictment -- but Hall is neither in jail nor suffering from poverty. He continues to live in luxury on his massive estate, his only problem being that he's now a social pariah.

Dortmunder and his buddies also have a problem. Hall's estate is highly guarded, making a heist of the cars almost impossible. The only people with access to the grounds are members of the house staff and the guards themselves. With no other way in, the gang is forced to change their identities and apply for jobs in Hall's household. Dortmunder is hired as butler, Stan as chauffeur, Andy as personal secretary to Hall, and Tiny as a guard. The four go to work, planning only to stay as long as it takes to find the cars and smuggle them off the grounds.

Unbeknownst to the gang, there are other people as anxious for revenge as Chester. Mark and Os have invested every cent of their money in SomniTech, and they're not about to be bankrupted by Hall. Anxious to get their hands on Monroe's off-shore holdings, they cut a deal with Mac, Ace, and Buddy, three former SomniTech employees angered over Hall's decimation of their ACWFFA union retirement fund. The five find another ready partner in Flip, a personal fitness trainer who has his own reason for hating Hall. Together, the six set out to kidnap Hall on the very same day that Dortmunder and his gang plan to heist the cars. Unfortunately for John Dortmunder, he gets kidnapped, too.

For rollicking great fun, you simply can't beat a book by Donald Westlake. THE ROAD TO RUIN is no exception and may be one of Westlake's best efforts yet. Fans of the series and newbies alike will marvel at the author's trademark intricate plotting and Hitchcock-like twists. Dortmunder is an unforgettable character whose very presence in the story puts this book head and shoulders above any other comic mystery on the market. There's just no denying it: Westlake and his characters are true national treasures.

Reviewed by Mary V. Welk, May 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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