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The recent real-life literary furor over the auctioned love letters of reclusive author J.D. Salinger to a stagestruck young woman writer has inspired a number of suspense novels.

The latest -- and best to date -- is Buffalo native Lawrence Block's "The Burglar in the Rye," a fictionalized madcap romp of a story that ranges from a breaking-and-entering caper to a wild farce for a fitting hilarious conclusion.

It marks the ninth appearance of Block's lovable anti-hero, bookseller/burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr, whose forte is melding larceny with reluctant detective work.

This outing finds Bernie invading the genteel hotel suite of an aged literary agent, in search of a cache of amorous missives written by a reclusive giant of American literature to his star-struck fan.

The agent's corpse awaits Bernie, then the police, who suspect the bookseller of her murder.

However, the mentally agile Bernie hits on a solution that fingers the most unlikely suspect, satisfies all claimants to the letters and leaves our lovable burglar a good deal richer.

"The Burglar in the Rye" is the only novel this year from the usually prolific and much honored Block.

He's won umpteen awards from the Mystery Writers of America and the Private Eye Writers of America.

Block, who's 61 and lives in New York City, has also received awards from fellow mystery/suspense practitioners in France and Japan.
By Lawrence Block
280 pages, $23.95

More thrills, briefly
The Last Climb, by Thomas H. Cosgrove; Simon & Schuster, 303 pages, $23 -- The highest peak in the Andes continues to beckon -- and elude -- legendary mountain climber Jim Bridgman whose professional career is on the skids.

Then he consents to help Father Mariano Raimondi, the old mentor who once inspired him in his dangerous expeditions.

The priest reportedly has been exiled in the treacherous back country of Peru, where a civil war rages and where Father Raimondi has been imprisoned, awaiting death.

Jim links up with an American newspaper reporter, and realizes that he must try to free the priest and help the peasants' fight the country's oligarchy. To do this, Jim knows, he must try one more assault on the soaring mountain that has hitherto defeated him.

The California author is an internationally known climber and recognized for his courage and daring in climbing circles around the world. He has participated in major expeditions to the Andean, Himalayan and Alaskan ranges.

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