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Bookseller, thief - Bernie Rhodenbarr can't resist the lure or a long lost Kipling poem, even if it is locked inside a millionaire's high security library. So Bernie goes browsing and sure enough he liberates the object in question...but also finds a dead redhead and is caught with the proverbial smoking gun by those boys in blue, who are ready to book Bernie for Murder One!
In the realm of larceny, there's no one quite like Bernie Rhodenbarr. A gentleman, a bookseller, and a thief, Bernie steals with style. But now Lawrence Block's beloved criminal has discovered one of the abiding truths about the burglary business: Two's company. Three is definitely a crowd. The second burglars were Bernie and his dog grooming partner, Carolyn. They came to rob the Colcannons' West Side brownstone while the couple was out of town having their own personal burglar alarm - a Bouvier named Astrid - bred. But when Bernie and Carolyn break in they discover that they've already been beaten to the punch. Fortunately for Bernie, the first burglars left behind some decent goods, including a pair of emerald earrings, a fine Piaget watch, and a valuable coin that could just be too hot to handle. But of course he takes it anyway. The Colcannon home, though, still has a busy night ahead, and the next morning one person is dead. And when the next murder strikes uncomfortably close to home, it's time for Bernie to go to work. Because somewhere between a bungled burglary, a nasty case of double homicide, and a rare nickel is a case that makes little sense.