John Dortmunder just knew he was in trouble when ex-cop Johnny Eppick showed up at popular watering hole, O.J. Bar & Grill located on New York’s Amsterdam Avenue. The more Eppick talked, the more Dortmunder realized just how much hot water he was in as it became clear he could either cooperate or face a larceny bust, which is funny when one considered the current proposition. Eppick’s client Mr. Hemlow wants justice in the form of stealing a heavily guarded 800-pound solid gold and bejeweled chess set smuggled into the U.S. by army solders at the close of World War I. With a little research, they have determined that Dortmunder is just the man to pull of such a monumental heist. Dortmunder is less then taken with the idea, especially when it came out that the chess set has resided secure in the basement vault of a Manhattan bank for the last 60 years while various parties fought for ownership. How on earth is someone supposed to break into a vault like that, haul off an 800-pound treasure and get away with it in the middle of New York City?
What follows is a comedy of errors, serendipity, careful planning and plans gone awry as Dortmunder assembles his old comrades together in order to pull off this major caper with the able assistance of Mr. Hemlow’s granddaughter. Throughout, Dortmunder maintains his humorous if determinedly pessimistic views on everything from the heist itself to traveling beyond Manhattan’s borders. The on going dialog while often funny, frequently slowed the pacing of this engaging keystone cops and robbers style tale with a terrific, ironic twist of an ending. Fans of this popular series will eat it up and send newbies to the bookstores looking for more by this entertaining author.