Fresh out of jail, Dortmunder lands an unexpected job when an old friend asks him to put together a team to liberate the Balabomo Emerald, which two small and impoverished African nations are eager to possess.
Deploring the influence of best-seller lists, Michael Dirda wrote that
The best books of a genre seldom make the list. The finest all-around American crime writer of the past forty years—I speak of Donald E. Westlake—never matched the sales of Elmore Leonard, let alone [James] Patterson. Reviewers praised his comic Dortmunder capers, readers ecstasized over his lean Richard Stark noirs. A novel like The Ax—as brilliant a black comedy as the film Kind Hearts and Coronets—should be famous.
This is the first Dortmunder, and it’s on a frolic of its own.