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Sivosten webZine :: Donald Westlake: What's So Funny?
Donald Westlake: What's So Funny?

Author: Angel Genchev, Tuesday, 02 September 2008.

In Articles :: Literature; Propose a Second Opinion

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I haven\'t read a crime story for such a long time that I\'ve forgotten the feeling of doing so. No kidding. Due to my current good luck with books I\'d come across this novel, which reminded me of a crime story in its prime. Almost by exception, the annotation of the book is also pretty cool. Indeed, \"What\'s So Funny?\" is a rather funny detective novel, and the two sides of the medal concerning the protagonists go the other way around as well. The traditionally good guys turn into suspicious characters. On the other hand, you come to grow fond of the bad guys. Honestly, I feel like this.

This, however, should have not surprised me. Westlake is an old, skilled fox. Although a contemporary neither of Chandler nor of Chase, he has enough of an authors experience to compete with any of them. At the same time he does not belong to the old times. His books are quite up-to-date with the present and Westlake\'s very capable of satisfying the modern reader\'s taste. So, once again, he is no doubt a senior gentlemen but he\'s surely a high-caliber writer. Even his hero Dortmunder, despite being a thief but no gentleman, unlike Lupin, would never lose the battle against Marlowe, for example; save for the fact that Dortmunder is also not that much of a central figure, unlike him.

\"What\'s So Funny?\" is a book of unavoidable and irresistible circumstances. Every new event comes like a flag driven in place. It forces the characters involved to steer clear from it as far as possible, but does not give them the opportunity to avoid it despite their inborn slyness. It\'s a book of surprises, which turn out not to be as unpredictable after actually taking place. There is an impossible crime, not only in terms of preparation but also in terms of realization. It\'s impossible with its personages and their acts, and with its turns. At the same time, it\'s completely logical, sensible and irreversible with every next chapter. All these are features of a top-class detective novel.

Simultaneously, there is some slight, refined humour in \"What\'s So Funny?\". The author does not distract the reader\'s attention with boring absurdities, having nothing to do with reality, but which are intended rather to uncover some depth in the characters. Westlake has saved us these, but to our big or not so big surprise, his heroes are not as \"two-dimensional\" as they seem to be.

That\'s why this novel is perhaps the perfect summertime book. Even if you have some free time in some other season, you would not regret reading it.

Translated by M. Kotseva

Commentary topic: http://www.sivosten.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=207709#p207709

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