An old and very mean cellmate of Dortmunder’s emerges from prison with the tale of how his greatest ever hoard is now buried beneath the soil and water of a large reservoir. He enlists Dortmunder to help him recover it. If Dortmunder fails, the old cellmate will just blow up the reservoir and drown everybody below.
It’s a beautiful scenario of difficult operation versus greed (as well as responsibility to fellow man), and is perfect for Westlake’s laid-back comic set pieces. I’m not spoiling anything by saying that attempt after attempt goes wrong, so that by the end the reader really does empathise with how frazzled Dortmunder is. A particular highlight is the attendance of a low-taste wedding and then – in my favourite plot strand – the activities of the gang unwittingly costing the bridegroom his sanity.
It’s always tempting to compare these books to the work the same writer did under his Richard Stark non de plume, but they come from different directions. The Parker tales are a deadly cut-throat razor on a cold dawn, while the Dortmunder capers are a nice lie-in followed by a hot breakfast later that very same morning.
eBook Drowned Hopes (Dortmunder, #7)