When the smartest writer of lighthearted crime fiction brings John Dortmunder back after a five-year hiatus, his fans are in for a double helping of fun. Before the plot takes its first outlandish turn, Dortmunder's having a kind of midlife crisis: what's a career crook to do when his most recent attempt at restocking the family coffers ends in a botched burglary? Dortmunder makes his escape by pretending to be a customer caught napping in the optician's office of a New Jersey discount store after midnight, but he's unable to set up a new heist. Hoping to recoup his losses, he signs on with his old friend Andy Kelp, who's made an Internet connection with a bizarre scam artist named Fitzroy Guilderpost.
Guilderpost's plan to take over an Indian gambling casino requires the replacement of one dead Indian buried in a Queens cemetery with another corpse, who's actually related to Guilderpost's partner, a Las Vegas chorine named Little Feather. Dortmunder and pals have to spirit Joseph Redcorn out of the plot he's been occupying for nearly a century and replace him with Little Feather's grandfather, who's been dead for quite a spell himself. Little Feather will inherit a third of the casino if she can prove she's related to the newly planted Indian, who belonged to a vanishing tribe, the Pottaknobbees.
Dortmunder can smell the wool being pulled over his eyes and has no intention of playing the fleeced sheep, not when he sees a way to cut himself and Andy in for a partner's share of the profits. But the casino's current owners are as crooked as Fitzroy Guilderpost, so while switching one dead Indian with another isn't tough, even for a fellow who hates physical labor as much as Dortmunder does, keeping him planted long enough for the law to match his DNA with Little Feather's is a much more problematic enterprise.
This is one of Dortmunder's most picaresque adventures (The Hot Rock, Don't Ask, etc.), and shows off author Donald E. Westlake's gifts: the pacing as swift as a dealer's shuffle, the secondary characters and the convoluted twists and turns of the plot worthy of the late Ross Thomas. And speaking of switched bodies and stolen identities
is it possible that Donald Westlake is Ross Thomas? (Don't panic; it's just wishful thinking from a big fan of the comic caper genre. But when you've worked your way through Westlake's oeuvre of over 50 novels, and reread every Elmore Leonard you can get your hands on, you might want to make your way to Ross Thomas's back list, too). --Jane Adams