The Burglar on the Prowl by Lawrence Block. AKA, WTF.

The Burglar on the Prowl
Read August 2014
Recommended for people who don’t mind a date rape

If you are willing to gloss over a significant character relationship, it might theoretically be an entertaining read.

Seriously, Block. What’s the author of the finely tuned Matt Scudder mysteries thinking? Please tell me this was subbed out to a ghost writer, because your introduction of the Barbara Creely character is awful.

Burglar stared off promising, with a unique voice compared to Block’s other works, and with a man who clearly enjoyed his illegal activities, even as he was aware of how problematic they were.

Bernie Rodenbarr is set up to be a somewhat loveable anti-hero, the classic criminal with ethics (he only steals from the rich, etc, etc), and it mostly works, until he’s under the bed at a woman’s house as she is about to get date-raped. And he just hides there and listens, because he’s essentially afraid of harm from the rapist. Although I appreciate that Bernie is sharing an honest reason, it had a significant downgrading on my enjoyment level. After the rapist finishes, he tosses the apartment looking for money and valuables. He threatens to degrade the unconscious woman further, but is luckily stopped by circumstance. Bernie feels sorry for the woman and makes an effort to “clean up” the mess the rapist/robber made by putting things back, replacing money in her wallet, flushing the condom, etc. Kind, I suppose. But how fucking obtuse: I know what will solve the problem! Let me erase it for you and we’ll pretend it never happened!

Later, Bernie goes back to the neighborhood and hangs out at a bar that seems like the woman’s type, hoping to run into her. To see if she’s okay? Nice thought, but no. To try and warn her that her she needs to start playing it safer? Wow, you’re kind of a Pollyanna, aren’t you?

No, he meets her, they have a creepy conversation about how it seems they’ve been “emotionally intimate” before, he goes home with her that night, and spends the night having sex.

Oh, not so he’s a stalker or anything–he’s friendly and doesn’t use roofies, which makes all the difference.
Then, within a week, he’s telling her the truth about his occupation… and how he first met her. And you know what? She’s okay with it.


The self-disclosure is literally taken care of in a couple of paragraphs. This is despite Bernie earlier reflecting on a conversation with his friend Carolyn about how merely feeling burgled felt like a violation. He tells Barbara she’s been roofied and date-raped, along with being robbed. Her reaction? She swears for a minute and then focuses on which window Bernie was going to use to escape.

I will say it again:


Add in a shitload of coincidences, which Bernie self-references twenty times if he does it once, and the ridiculous Hercule Poirot denouement, and I’m left with the uncomfortable feeling that this is a spoof. In which rape is how you meet your next date.

Need I say it again?

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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6 Responses to The Burglar on the Prowl by Lawrence Block. AKA, WTF.

  1. stephswint says:

    Out of curiosity…has anyone said “Oh, I just read that review, and you know what I am a fan of date rape! This is the book for me!” -Thank you for letting me know. – Definitely skipping it.

    • thebookgator says:

      Yeah, that was me being snide. I looked at GR reviews, and the few negative ones specifically mention this scene—all by women. No, no one says they are a fan, outright at least. But they can/should acknowledge how disturbing the nonchalance with which Block treats it is inappropriate.

  2. stephswint says:

    Sorry, I wish there was an emoticon or something for sarcasm. I was meaning to compliment. I enjoyed the snide comment. Has Goodreads left up this review. It is after all commentary on the book content. I hope they do leave it.

  3. thegurney says:

    hi there, i just read this book (got given it, had no idea who lawrence block was) and was pretty horrified about the casual acceptance of date rape. so hooray for the internet for being able to find somewhere to vent. i absolutely agree with you it disgusts and angers me that he can write that Barbara would react to his confession like “oh wow, that’s fine that you broke into my house and lay there doing nothing to stop me getting raped”. (I mean he knew she was out for the count and that the other guy had never been there before so why not have the hero intervene, stop the rape and make his character a little more decent, and smart. and make the book a little less misogynist)

    • thebookgator says:

      thegurney (medical person, perhaps?)–I agree, it is one of those times when the internet is kind of affirming in that it provides a like-minded if distant opinion. I really enjoyed the Matt Scudder mysteries, which is why this scene blind-sided me. But now Block has an erotic series with a female killer, so I’m soured on him.

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