With Donald Westlake’s recent passing, I wanted to read something by him. I’ve read a lot of Westlake’s novels over the years, but he was prolific enough that there are still a lot of them I haven’t read. The one that came easiest to hand was DANCING AZTECS, a stand-alone comic thriller.
The set-up is fairly complicated. A corrupt businessman and a low-level crook are trying to smuggle into the country an ancient Aztec statue in the shape of a dancing priest. The statue is about a foot tall, made of gold, and has emeralds for eyes. It’s hidden among a shipment of copies that are intended as awards to be given out at a luncheon to the members of a club in New York City. Of course, there’s a foul-up, and the statue that’s worth a million dollars is given out in the place of one of the copies. Various people find out about this and start trying to find the valuable statue. Chaos of a humorous nature ensues, along with a considerable amount of action and romance.
What’s left to say about Westlake that hasn’t been said in the past couple of weeks? You already know his style is smooth and very readable (although he does some things in this book with the timeline and POV shifts that most writers wouldn’t attempt – and makes them work). He weaves together a complex plot and a huge number of characters and somehow keeps everything straight so that it all makes sense. Not an easy task. DANCING AZTECS is very funny in places, and you can’t help but root for the characters, even the ones who are crooked. Overall, I prefer Westlake’s serious books to his comedies, but just about everything he wrote is worth reading and DANCING AZTECS is no exception. Reading it is a highly entertaining way to spend some time.