Castle in the Air by Donald Westlake
(from the book jacket)
A castle is about to be dismantled and flown to Paris where it will be reassembled for an international exhibit of architectural styles. But a deposed South American dictator has hidden his entire fortune of cash, stocks, and jewelry inside twelve stones of the castle. Lida Perez, a sexy and fiery revolutionary who wants to get her hands on the loot to further her political cause, enlists the aid of British master-criminal Eustace Dench to mastermind the heist.
When Dench assembles his working gang of thieves, they turn out to be the Who’s Who of Europe’s Most Wanted List – Sir Mortimer Maxwell, doddering but dangerous, peppery Rosa Palermo, sly Jean LeFraque, and Vito Palone, who is whisked from his peaceful retirement in jail to join the biggest, most elaborate heist the world has ever known.
This book is written in a way that makes it sound as if the narrator is talking to you, like he is telling you the story. I think the casual tone and laid back way that things are said add to the humor of the situation. I also think that it is one of the reasons that the book is so easy and quick to read. Westlake has a knack for a good comic crime. And he makes watching this international group of thieves stealing a castle a lot of fun. The humor does get almost slap stick at times with all the people falling into canals and no one understanding anyone else because they all speak different languages, but it is also witty. The actual crime is not the end of the story here. You get to see it planned and then perpetrated but then you get to see after the crime where everything starts to fall apart. It’s fun to watch the group breakup and reform and morph along the way as you follow the money and try to figure out you is going to get what by the time everything is said and done. It’s an entertaining and quick story for anyone who likes a little fun with their crime.