Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Hot Rock

The Hot Rock
by Donald Westlake

On the same day that he is released from jail, Dortmunder, is asked by a pal, Andy Kelp, to help him steal a valuable emerald. The jewel has a buyer -- the United Nations ambassador from an African nation disputing the ownership of the emerald. Enter the various personalities of the heist team: Roger Chefwick is married and likes to work on his miniature railroad and to eat his wife's fudge. (I'm not sure if fudge is a reference to his sex life!) Another, Murch, lives with his mother and listens to street noises on record albums. Greenwood is a swinging single. The team stages a spectacular car crash into the building housing the emerald and the distraction works well; however, the three men actually stealing the jewel drop the glass case enclosing the emerald and so draw attention to themselves. The men run off, splitting up and as luck would have it, the thief with the emerald is the one caught by the police. To keep him from talking, his cohorts successfully spring him from the slammer. As they high-five one another in jubilation, they ask him about the emerald and he must give them the bad news -- he had to hide it in the police station! He'd swallowed it at the Coliseum—and got it back later, while in jail! Now the men break into the police station via helicopter. Wielding grenades, they enter the cell (in a very funny sequence) -- the cell is occupied by an old man in there for flashing -- but the jewel is not there. Greenwood, the once incarcerated thief, tells Dortmunder that he did tell his attorney where the stone was. Unfortunately, the attorney, Prosker, has committed himself to an insane asylum. Dortmunder plans yet another break-in. This time, they use a miniature railroad car, dubbed Tom Thumb, to invade the insane asylum, since the railroad tracks run nearby. Another very funny sequence wherein the asylum personnel chide the heist team for disturbing the inmates' sense of reality! Unimpressed with the scolding, the men kidnap Prosker. Prosker reveals that the emerald is in his safety deposit box at his bank. To access the box requires two keys -- his own and the one held by the bank. Now they get to rob a bank. Dortmunder hires a mentalist to hypnotize the bank guard into handing over the key to the safety deposit box. The mentalist rides the elevator with the man, successfully implanting the phrase that will be their prompt: "Afghanistan banana stand." -- recommended by Rianne S. - Bennett Martin Public Library

[ official Donald Westlake web site ]

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