Review

Put a Lid on It

by Donald E. Westlake



Let's be done with it and declare Donald Westlake a national
treasure. The man is nothing less than a marvel. He can do it all.
He can bring you to the depths of despair, keep you on the edge of
your seat (turning pages all the while) or keep you howling with
laughter. He usually does at least two of those three in the same
novel. That's no small feat, when you consider that he's published
almost 40 novels under his own name and almost that many (in fact,
probably more than that) under pseudonyms assorted and sundry. And
he's not coasting on that considerable body of work, either. He's
written some of his best in the past five years, and PUT A LID ON
IT is unquestionably one of those.

PUT A LID ON IT is a comic Westlake novels; it is told through the
voice of Francis Meehan, a career criminal whose career has
apparently run out of room when he pulls a caper that inadvertently
becomes a Federal beef. While awaiting trial, however, his luck
takes a turn for the better. He is approached by a gentleman named
Pat Jeffords with a proposition he cannot turn down. It's a
presidential election year, and in the possession of the loyal
opposition is an incriminating videotape of the President. The
President wants --- and needs --- that tape if he wants to have a
chance of being reelected. Getting the tape requires a burglary,
nothing more, nothing less.

You want a burglary, you hire a burglar, which is why Jeffords
approaches Meehan with a deal: get the tape and the Federal charges
hanging over Meehan's head disappear. Meehan is too street-smart to
believe that any aspect of the deal will be that simple; besides
that, he's also looking for an angle of his own. When Meehan
discovers that the tape is being kept with a priceless firearms
collection, he figures that he can gain his freedom and turn a
profit at the same time. This involves assembling a crew, casing
the situation, and taking steps to make sure that the government
keeps its word. Westlake, from beginning to end, infuses Meehan's
persona with the demeanor of someone who is at any given time the
smartest person in the room and who is always aware of that fact.
The result is suspenseful, intriguing and, above all,
hilarious.

Westlake demonstrates with PUT A LID ON IT that he has by no means
exhausted his ability to surprise and delight with practically
every word he writes; it is ordinary only in the sense that it
stands as an equal component to what, over the past 40 years, has
become an unequaled body of work in the annals of crime fiction.
There is no doubt that he can continue to dazzle, impress and, most
importantly, entertain his readers for as long as he chooses to do
so.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011

Put a Lid on It
by Donald E. Westlake

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 0892967188
  • ISBN-13: 9780892967186