Donald Westlake

What’s So Funny?

"'… a sassy, amusing and involving novel'"


John Dortmunder is accosted by Johnny Eppick, a retired cop turned detective. He has a few choice photos of one of Dortmunder’s previous ‘jobs’. So that it won’t turn up at the local police station, Eppick insists he needs Dortmunder’s help to get something a new client desperately needs. Soon, Dormunder finds that the object that Eppick’s client desires is locked away in a vault which will be impossible to penetrate.

The desired object is a jewel encrusted chess set which has been missing since the Great War. Now it is found and Eppick’s client is determined to get his hands on what he feels is rightfully his. Dormunder and his cohorts are involved and up to their necks. It will take a great deal of ingenuity and luck to pull off this caper.

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Westlake has created a group of men who exist on their wits and live every day looking out for the next scam that will make them the fortune they crave. When Dormunder is blackmailed into taking on a commission to gain access to a jewelled chess set, the reader soon gets the sense that everything is certainly not going to slot into place too easily. The author has created a group of characters who are very appealing, despite the fact that they err on the wrong side of the law. Take Dortmunder’s partner in crime, Andy Kelp, who likes to go out shopping - but not the way we know it. Kelp comes back wearing two suits and several overcoats, all of which will be sold on for cash. What this team gets up to leaves you breathless at its audacity. Westlake has written a sassy, amusing and involving novel in What’s So Funny? There is no body and no gore. What you do get is a witty, thrilling novel of five guys who are going to steal a chess set that many people covet. From there, Westlake takes you on an incredible adventure. The reader follows the plans the guys make and the unknown elements that seems to thwart them at every step. The writing is slick – in the best sense - whilst the observations are fresh and spot on. Despite initially not being sure about the title, this is a book I read in a day and simply couldn’t put down. I will certainly be waiting with baited breath to read the next instalment featuring John Dortmunder and his motley crew.

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