Monday, January 09, 2012

Drowned Hopes (A Dortmunder Novel)

By Donald E. Westlake

Back when he was a young man, Dortmunder shared a prison cell with Tom Jimson. Jimson was in for various crimes and should have spent the rest of his life behind bars. But some twenty years or so later, Jimson was released, due to overcrowding. All those years behind bars didn't do a thing to improve his disposition either. He went in a bad guy and came out a bad guy.
One of the crimes Jimson committed (but for which he was not convicted) was the robbery of an armored car that resulted in a take of $700,000. It was buried in a casket behind the library in a small rural town in New York. But in the many years that Jimson was locked up, a lot changed in that small town. Mainly it is covered by a whole lot of water. A dam was built downstream of the town and now the town is at the bottom of a resevoir.
After all those years in prison and given his penchant for killing off his co-conspirators and now an old man, Jimson is going to need help getting his money. Otherwise, as he tells Dortmunder, he will simply blow up the dam and drain the lake and get his money that way and too bad for all the people living downstream of the resevoir. Dortmunder, who knows perfectly well what kind of person Jimson is, feels pressured to come up with a plan that will rescue the money and keep Jimson from creating his devastating flood. But this is way out of Dortmunder's comfort zone and he and his usual gang will find themselves doing things for which they are ill prepared.

This was a very funny story. Dortmunder tries to learn to scuba dive with indifferent success. He brings the usual gang along to help: Andy, who also learns to scuba dive, and Stan the driver, and Tiny the muscle. They also need the help of a couple of new characters: Wally, a computer nerd and Doug, a diver. But even with the help of these two experts, the challenge of digging up a buried casket under fifty feet of water in a dark and murky lake is going to test the gang to the very limits. Even Dortmunder's girlfriend May and Stan's Mom get entangled in the plot, playing key roles. This was just great fun to read and I really enjoyed it.

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