RARA-AVIS: Block/The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep

From: DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net
Date: 17 Dec 2007

This is the first of Block's Evan Tanner series, and the first I've read. I had gotten the impression that this was a spy series, so I never picked any of them up since I'm not much interested in the genre. Well, Tanner is not yet a spy in this book, no matter what most of the people he meets assume (and the ending does have him heading in that direction). He is more of an international adventurer (although it's said it's his first time outside the US since his wartime service in Korea) making his way through Europe to try to retrieve a possibly apocryphal cache of gold in Turkey.

The gimmick is that Tanner does not sleep (due to a war wound that injured his sleep center), so he spends all of those extra waking hours reading and researching, learning all sorts of arcane facts that prove helpful along the way. He has also joined organizations for lost causes
(Flat Earth Soceity, and all sorts of long failed liberation movements), which provides him with underground contacts around the world.

It all adds up to a picaresque where no matter how many tanks and guns are roaring, no matter how much time is spent in a Turkish prison, no matter how many thieves, cops and spies are after him, you never get the impression our hero is in the slightest danger. It's a pleasant read, but a mere trifle. And that is largely due to the voice. It's a first person narrative written in pretty much the same casual voice as the Bernie Rhodenbarr and Keller series, which was recently discussed here. I enjoyed a few of the Burglar books, but didn't miss them a bit when I stopped reading them. I enjoyed the first two Hit books, but haven't felt particularly compelled to pick up Hit Parade. I'm in no hurry to pick up another Tanner book, either. They're all pleasant ways to pass time, but the best of his Scudder books (even as the character becomes increasingly domesticated) and most of his early standalones are a whole lot more than that.


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