The Pequod Review:
Through the early 1970s, Donald Westlake had bounced around between various narrative styles, both serious and comic. But with The Hot Rock, he introduced a new character (John Dortmunder) who along with his gang of co-conspirators would become the basis for an extraordinary series of fourteen comic crime novels. From the beginning, many of the key Dortmunder elements were already in place: Stan Murch (his getaway driver), Andy Kelp (his #1 fan), and the O.J. Bar and Grill and its bartender Rollo. Perhaps the best way to describe Dortmunder is from Westlake himself, who said that if Parker (his hardboiled Richard Stark character) was robbing a bank he’d find a convenient parking spot right in front, but if Dortmunder was robbing the same bank he’d have to park several blocks away. In this book, Dortmunder & Co are hired by the ambassador of an African country to steal a disputed emerald of national importance from a rival nation while it is in the U.S. on a museum tour. They successfully steal it, but quickly lose it — and thus begins a first-rate comic caper, one of the best in the Dortmunder series.