Good Behavior
Donald E. Westlake
239 pages
published in 1985

John Dortmunder is a professional burglar who is just in the middle of gaining entrance to a warehouse filled with caviar, when the alarm system his fellow burglar had switched off, turned out to be less switched off than they thought. A pity, as he had looked forward to sampling the caviar with his faithful companion May. Instead, he is forced to flee over the rooftops, disappearing inside one of the warehouses just before the police arrives on the scene. A warehouse that turns out to be a convent...

Inside, the nuns living there have their own problems. One of their number, though of legal age has been kidnapped by her father and is being "deprogrammed" so she can fulfill the role she must play in his not too shady business empire. A deal is struck, where Dortmunder promises to rescue Sister Mary Grace, and the nuns won't hand him over to the police. The only problem is that Sister Grace is held on "the heavily guarded upper floor of a security-rich midtown skyscraper", owned by her father. But hey, it's also an opportunity to make some nice money burglaring the stores in the skyscraper, while doing some good at the same time.

In other words, Good behavior is a classic crime caper novel. It's the second novel of Westlake I've read, the first being another John Dortmunder novel, Drowned Hopes. At the time it took me some effort to get into it. There just was something about the tone that seemed wrong, but nothing I could put my finger on, until about halfway through: it's satire! Westlake's humour is so dry it could turn Lake Erie into a desert. No "wink wink nudge nudge", no jokes, just wry humour coming directly from the characters and the absurd situations Westlake puts them in, to which they respond in the same serious manner they respond to anything.

An excellent novel.

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