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What's the Worst That Could Happen? (Dortmunder Novels) Hardcover – October 1, 1996


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When Max Fairbanks, a vastly wealthy and powerful magnate, catches John Dortmunder breaking into his Long Island mansion, he thinks he is dealing with some regular loser. It amuses him to deprive Dortmund of his lucky ring. In Westlake's ingenious and dazzling comic thriller, Fairbanks lives to regret that gratuitous humiliation. The engaging Dortmund gathers a band of cronies, and exacts revenge at a series of the rich man's fancy palaces, from a penthouse on Broadway to a fantasy retreat in Las Vegas. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

John Dortmunder, the taciturn con man who is the hero of Westlake's funniest series of caper novels, is someone perfectly capable of nursing a grievance. When billionaire hotshot Max Fairbanks, who has caught Dortmunder burgling his Long Island estate, tells the arresting police that the good-luck ring on Dortmunder's finger was stolen from him (when it was in fact a gift from Dortmunder's girlfriend, May), Max's fate, no matter how well protected he may be, is sealed. Dortmunder makes repeated attempts to get his ring back, hitting on ingenious ways to get into the billionaire's lavish Times Square and Watergate apartments, making off each time with considerable loot. But only when Fairbanks goes off to his huge casino/hotel/theme park in Las Vegas, in a deliberate attempt to entrap Dortmunder, does the dour vengeance-seeker shift into really high gear. Picturesque rogues from previous Dortmunder outings are collected into a formidable army, pitted against the best security Max's millions can buy, all leading to a showdown only Westlake could have conceived. As can be expected from this expert hand, the narrative is at once laconic and fast, the jokes constant, fresh and funny. Dortmunder, as always, is a potent brew that makes the world look brighter. Mystery Guild featured alternate.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dortmunder Novels
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press; First Edition edition (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 089296586X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892965861
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #251,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Larry Eischen on October 31, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a jewel of a book from Westlake. When Dortmunder is caught in a heist, the victim manages to take the thief's "lucky" ring when the police apprehend him. Dortmunder's quest for his missing ring brings in all of our favorite characters from the series as he robs millionaire Fairbanks time and again. The book culminates in a Vegas heist that would do Ocean's 11 proud. Funny and exciting, this book is a must have for any Westlake/Stark fan.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Old Fisherman on June 25, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Dortmunder is a burglar. While on what should have been an easy job he's caught by the pistol-toting homeowner and gets caught. That's bad enough, but the homeowner, wealthy Max Fairbanks, adds insult to injury when he claims that Dortmunder's lucky ring actually belongs to him. Big mistake. Dortmunder vows to get the ring back no matter what which leads to a series of funny capers where Max Fairbanks loses more and more wealth until the slam-bang finish in Las Vegas.
I've been reading the Dortmunder novels for years and they never disappoint. They are always funny with a little cockeyed slant to them that Donald Westlake is famous for. They are just fun books to read and I'd recommend any of them.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Untouchable on September 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Burglars such as John Dortmunder can accept getting caught and turned over to the police, it goes with the territory. So it was with an air of inevitability that Dortmunder allowed himself to be handcuffed by the police after making the mistake of getting caught while robbing billionaire Max Fairbanks. What is totally unacceptable is, while in custody and about to be taken to the station, the same Max Fairbanks brazenly steals Dortmunder's `lucky' ring.
John is determined to recover his ring and won't rest until he has it. The fact that he's up against a billionaire with virtually unlimited resources isn't enough to alter his resolve. So we follow caper after caper as John and his old friend Andy Kelp make their attempts which occur in New York City, Washington D.C. and then, in a rousing finale, in Las Vegas.
This is the 9th book in the Dortmunder series and is an outstanding story that contains all the humour and characters of the previous books, but is different for one important reason. It looks as though John's luck may have changed, although he won't hear of it. It's the paradox between the luck Dortmunder thinks he is experiencing and the luck he's actually having that provides many of the more amusing moments.
Donald Westlake's John Dortmunder series has provided me with some of the most consistently entertaining reading of any author I have read in recent years. The books are complete farces, yet have been presented with the greatest imagination possible. What's The Worst That Could Happen picks up this precedent and carries it even further. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good laugh.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on August 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Hilariously clever, Westlake's 1996 John Dortmunder thriller turns on luck as the ingenious but luckless burglar's soulmate, May, receives a bequest, "a small box, such as earrings might come in, or a kidnap victim's finger."

In it is her dead uncle's "lucky" ring which fits Dortmunder perfectly. Wearing it, he embarks on a burgling job. But the corporate beach house is not empty. The owner, Max Fairbanks, one of the world's richest men, greets Dortmunder with a gun. Whimsically topping off his coup, Fairbanks announces to the police that Dortmunder has stolen his ring and gleefully appropriates Dortmunder's lucky piece.

A mistake. Dormunder, personally affronted, begins a single-minded quest to retrieve the ring by escaping the police and returning to the house, now disappointingly empty - of people, that is. Consoling himself with a rich haul, Dortmunder plots his next move, undeterred even by the prospect of pursuing Fairbanks beyond the bounds of his New York world. Meanwhile the burglary is the start of a spectacular downhill slide for Fairbanks.

Westlake's prose hurtles along with the twists of the plot as loot fairly jumps into the hands of Dortmunder's gang (growing larger at every turn) while the ring continues to elude him. The final caper unleashes a veritable army of New York's thieves on an extremely suspicious and watchful Las Vegas. This is Westlake at his funniest.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on August 14, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Dortmunder, professional thief, is asked by an associate to participate in what appears to be an exceedingly simple heist--robbing an empty mansion on Long Island. Dortmunder, appraising the situation, sees little risk. After all, the house is guaranteed to be empty, and he is wearing his lucky ring, a gift from his girlfriend's uncle.

Of course, if you are at all familiar with this series, you know that luck and Dortmunder are like water and oil. While engaged in this seemingly foolproof job, Dortmunder is accosted by the mansion's owner, billionaire communications giant Max Fairbanks. Armed with a shotgun, he corners Dortmunder and calls the police. To add insult to injury, Fairbanks impulsively tells the officers who respond that the ring on Dortmunder's finger is his. Dortmunder can only stand there gaping as Fairbanks robs him.

Enraged by this turn of events, Dortmunder escapes from the police and begins his campaign to get his ring back. Over the course of several weeks, Dortmunder haunts Fairbanks, narrowly missing several opportunities to regain his precious ring. For the first time in his life, however, he can do no wrong criminally--obsessed with getting his ring back, he scarcely notices that his pursuit of Fairbanks is netting him a fortune.

What's the Worst That Could Happen? is typical Westlake, well written, fast and funny. Fans of the series can savor the familiar elements of the Dortmunder books, while newcomers can sit back and enjoy the ride, and look forward to reading other entries in this hilarious series.
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