Picks and Pans Review: The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams

updated 05/23/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/23/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Lawrence Block

While this novel is far from Block's best, it has stirring moments of lock-picking skill and edgy searching. The breaking-and-entry maven of the title is Bernie Rhodenbarr, who in his spare time runs a bookstore. He has a spicy sex life, a sharp sense of humor and a hip lesbian sidekick who condones his midnight crawling through other people's drawers.

Oddly this mostly modern amorality tale involves a classic locked-room murder à la John Dickson Carr and ends with a hokey gathering of suspects straight out of Rex Stout, if not Agatha Christie.

Alas, those classic forms seem to demand a more pompous, earnest prose than Block's breezy banter. The enigmatic title refers to baseball cards, which figure prominently in a series of intersecting scams. But Block, skeptical rather than zealous, merely seems to have done homework about these high-price collectibles. He doesn't make a little-boy obsession among grown men interesting to readers who don't already share it.

Last month, Block won a special Edgar Award as a lifetime grand master from the Mystery Writers of America. They probably had in mind not this cute series but such bloody gems as A Walk Among the Tombstones, A Ticket to the Boneyard and Eight Million Ways to Die. (Dutton, $19.95)

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