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on May 21, 2002
Tom Jimson is a nasty piece of work. He's also an ex-cellmate of John Dortmunder's who has just been released from prison and unexpectedly shows up on Dortmunder's doorstep to ask him to help to recover some of the loot he had stashed away before going away. He'd buried it in a coffin, behind a library, in a small town almost 30 years ago. The problem is, the town and the surrounding valley have since been flooded under 50 feet of water to form a reservoir.
As an ideas man, Dortmunder's specialty is to come up with brilliant plans but this time he's faced with a perplexing conundrum. How do you sneak into a reservoir that is off-limits to the public, find a box buried in ground that is also underwater? Well, one thing's for sure, if John Dortmunder and his gang is involved, it won't go without a hitch and the results will be hilarious.
The crew backing up from previous books are the ever reliable Andy Kelp, Tiny Bulcher who's starting to seem almost human now, driving specialist Stan Murch, Murch's Mom and Dortmunder's better half, May. May seems to be playing a more important role in each successive outing and is a fine foil for Dortmunder doom and gloom attitude.
This is an unusual Dortmunder book because it is at least twice as long as any of the previous entries in the series. This serves to give Dortmunder room to come up with even more brilliant plans. It also allows us to get to know the regular cast in much greater depth. For example, we finally find out what Murch's Mom's first name is in this book. Westlake also manages to introduce us to a few more offbeat characters that complement the regular mob nicely.
As usual, Donald Westlake has given us a riotous caper that is simply a joy to read. In order to fully understand each character's idiosyncrasies I would recommend reading the earlier books first, an enjoyable task in itself, although it's not absolutely necessary. There are numerous references to earlier capers, but these only serve to give the reader the feeling of being an insider to the gang, the references don't spoil any plots.
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on November 26, 2001
Having read all of the previous Dortmunder novels, I found it increasingly difficult to think that Westlake would or could top himself with the genius of this series. Again, he proved me wrong with "Drowned Hopes." No one can turn a phrase, develop a character or dream a scenario the way Westlake does.
"Drowned Hopes" brings back many of the great characters from the previous Dortmunder novels and as always, throws in a few new ones to round out the brilliant cast. The story is a wild adventure unrivaled in the previous books of the series, taking our hero from NYC, to Oklahoma and even up Abe Lincoln's nose on Mt. Rushmore.
I can recommned this book in print and on audio-cassette (with a wonderful performance by Michael Kramer - reader of all the Dortmunder books on tape) where the characters come to life. This one leaves you hungry for more.
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on September 19, 2013
Westlake has been writing his Dortmunder novels for at least 40 years. They are always fun, require very little concentration and are easy to read. I don't know how he manages to write so many books but I'm glad he does.
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on January 10, 2014
Poor Dortmunder and his gang! Will they ever succeed at anything??? This is one of my favorite in the series, also one of the longest. But that just prolongs the pleasure of reading it. Westlake was a genius....how did he come up with this stuff???? A real delight!!
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on August 27, 2015
The Dortmunder books span decades. I think this is the first one that involves computers, and was probably already retro when it was new. Everything about it is classic Westlake: the gradual refining of the heist plan, the large assortment of well-defined characters that eventually come together in a magnificent climax... I bought this for my mom, but I think I'm going to read it again.
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on November 9, 2012
I'm a big fan of Donald E. Westlake but this is my first Dortmunder novel, if I read more in the series it will be in spite of this novel not because of it.

I had a very difficult time getting into this novel. During the first third of it I struggled to stay interested, nearly putting it down unfinished several times, which is extremely unusual for me. The plot just seemed to come to a standstill off and on throughout the book. I don't mean the action stopped, I mean the story itself got sidetracked and then moved along at a glacial pace for page after page after page before returning to the main plot. To compound the problem there were several sections where the author went into excruciating detail to set the scene.

Perhaps one of the problems was that in the early part of the book there is a lot of emphasis on "modern technology". Since the book was written in 1990 that means there is a lot of outdated stuff (like one character's introduction to speaker phones) where one character has to explain various aspects of basic computer functions to the others and then there are long passages describing rudimentary images being created on a computer screen.

There is plenty of Mr. Westlake's trademark humor sprinkled liberally throughout so that once I got deeper into the book I was able to finally connect with the material and enjoy it much more.

I don't think I would recommend this book to anyone but a diehard Westlake fan. It's overlong, plodding in parts and, though it somewhat redeems itself in the end, not a great story.
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on August 13, 2015
The Dortmunder book series by Donald E. Westlake is one of my favorites. The books are beautifully plotted and unfailingly funny. Drowned Hopes doesn't disappoint. In this one, the gang leaves NYC to pursue a fortune they'd rather leave behind -- and things go from bad to worse. Donald Westlake's wit is a constant, from the ne'er-do-well characters to the plot turns and funny lines. Definitely worth reading if you think you'd enjoy an anti-hero's comic misadventures.
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on September 15, 2015
An unalloyed pleasure! The previous entry was a return to form after a somewhat disappointing book 5, but Drowned Hopes surpasses The Hot Rock. Besides the usual string, we have Westlake bringing in a slew of interesting outsiders, none of them, peculiarly, laymen. The tension, hilarity and plot twists lead to a generally satisfying denouement. And as a bonus, we learn Stan's mom's first name. Or do we?
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on June 23, 1998
It's a very good story about a thief named Dortmunder Who's old cellmate come's to him for help digging up a 23 year loot from a heist. Dortmunder get's a group together and tries to get the money again and again but they can't make it. The old cellmate wants to blow up the dam so dortmunder has to get the money soon! I forgot to mention that the water's now under a newly built Resevoir!
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on April 23, 2016
In "Drowned Hopes," Donald E. Westlake more than lives up to his reputation as the greatest "comic crime caper" storyteller. This story has all the Dortmunder elements--brilliant plans gone comically awry, great characters, twists, turns, and a wonderfully surprising ending. Highly recommended.
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