Castle in the Air
by Westlake, Donald E.

Four competing teams of international thieves race through Paris in an attempt to steal an entire castle, whose walls are purported to hold secret treasure in the new novel from the award-winning author of Parker and Point Blank. Original.

Donald E. Westlake is widely regarded as one of the great crime writers of the 20th century. He won three Edgar Awards and was named a Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America. Many of his books have been made into movies; Westlake also wrote the screenplay for The Grifters for which he received an Academy Award nomination.

Westlake fans should be celebrating Hard Case Crime's ongoing project to reprint the author's early and long-unavailable work. This time it's a truly wacky comic caper, originally published in 1980, involving a gang of international thieves who attempt to steal a castle being transported in pieces from South America to Paris, where it will be reassembled for a trade exposition. The catch? Shepherded away in one of the castle's columns is a fortune in cash and jewels belonging to the country's dictator. Our motley crew, led by the ever-harried Eustace Dench, must steal the entire castle and then hunt through the pieces for the loot. Chaos ensues on a grand scale-think the Marx Brothers racing about Paris, battling other motorists in the manner of Monsieur Hulot in Jacques Tati's film Trafic. Compounding the bedlam is the fact that this collection of double-crossing crooks from England, France, Germany, and Italy are all monolingual. Their world-class failure to communicate drives Westlake's Gang That Couldn't Talk Straight into one dead end after another, all to hilarious effect. Far more slapstick than typical Westlake fare, but great fun. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Another posthumously reprinted over-the-top comic heist that Westlake, the universally acclaimed master of the subgenre, originally published in 1980. On his way out the door from the country of Yerbadoro, President Escobar Lynch plans to exit with the greater portion of the presidential castle he's occupied, which is to be disassembled and shipped stone by stone to the French countryside for reassembly on a lot he and his wife, Maria, have carefully selected. And that's not all he's taking: Some of those stones have been hollowed out so they can serve as receptacles for a fortune Lynch has plundered from his people. It seems only fair that someone else should steal his ill-gotten goods in turn, so beautiful Yerbadoroan insider Lida Perez engages master criminal Eustace Dench to engineer the heist, splitting the proceeds equally with her. Since it's impossible to tell in advance which stones are treasure troves and which are nothing but stones, Dench contracts with French con man Jean LeFraque and veteran German criminal Herman Muller to assemble teams that will be responsible for different phases of the intricate operation. What could possibly go wrong? As it happens, several noncomplications, from general ignorance of the caper by law enforcement to too few opportunities for individual team members to showcase their varied skills to lots of relatively innocent jostling among teammates competing for prominence with their more consequential double-crossing of each other, keep this from achieving the heights of Westlake's best work. What remains is the lazy, teasing mastery of a cat playing with a ball of exceptionally high-priced yarn. Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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