Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review: Donald E. Westlake, Don't Ask (1993)

The International Parker Theorem states: The more Parker gets involved in international intrigue, the less interesting he becomes. Its corollary, the International Dortmunder Theorem, states: The more a Dortmunder novel becomes involved in international intrigue, the sillier it becomes. And this is Westlake’s constant artistic battle in the Dortmunder books: to negotiate the fine line between funny and silly, to not get lazy and descend into fart jokes. Don’t Ask begins in the general realm of the fart joke with Dortmunder riding in a fish truck. (A future Dortmunder novel, I can only assume, will begin with Dortmunder sitting in an outhouse.) The problem with International Dortmunder is that Westlake cannot resist the low-hanging fruit: silly names, silly accents, and so on. And Donald E. Westlake, of all people, has no need for low-hanging fruit. In sum, Don’t Ask is an acceptable Dortmunder, though a bit lazy. Competent, but not inspired. Grade: C

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