One of the many things I love about writing book articles is that it gets me out of my comfort zone. I get to write about new genres – mystery in this case – and explore different worlds and authors. And something that makes writing these articles even more worth it, is when we get to partner with publishers and authors. Being able to communicate directly with them and discover new, wondrous books really makes it all worth it. I want to give a small shout out to Hard Case Crime! This publisher – who most recently release Stephen King’s latest novel Later – are re-releasing Donald E. Westlake’s Castle in the Air, and were kind enough to send the team at Fully Booked an advanced copy to read. Would I have ever read this book with out this push? Probably not. I need a push to read genres outside of my fantasy trope. But did I like reading this book? I absolutely did!

Castle in the Air Review

castle in the air book cover
Castle In The Air by Donald E. Westlake – Book Cover Hard Case Crime

Castle in the Air is described as “A dirty Dozen. With a French Connection ~ hard case crime”. Which is exactly what this book is about. Author Donald E. Westlake was a master of the genre, with over 100 books to his name throughout his career; he was a caper expert. It centers around one woman, a refugee from her oppressed Latin town, who partners with a notorious American criminal to pull off a one of a kind heist. The heist? Stealing an entire castle. Sounds impossible? That’s exactly what the criminals were thinking — until they realized the castle was being shipped to Paris, brick by brick. But how can one criminal and one refugee take an entire castle? With the help of a dozen dirty criminals from all across Europe of course. 

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If there is any funnier mystery novelist around, I can’t imagine who it would be. — USA Today

This American burglar rounds up a bunch of world class criminals from multiple countries across the continent. Basically, he gets the best of the best! He then comes up with a fool proof plan to steal the castle pieces and get the loot that is stored within it. With multiple twists and humor on every page, this book knows how to keep an audience entertained. I found that while I didn’t guess what twist would occur at the turn of every page, I did laugh out loud and felt light hearted delight reading Castle in the Air

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The main plot point of Castle in the Air that kept all the criminals on their toes – and the humor coming – was that none of them could speak the same language as the others. Only some could speak English, the language the group leader spoke. Communication was key, but in this case quite unattainable. And while they know there is a castle being shipped to Paris in literal pieces — no one quiteeee knows where those pieces are. And with in those pieces, which pieces has the prized loot they are all looking for? And the most obvious thing, this is huge group of criminals and only criminals. Is everyone telling the truth? How can you even find out what is true and what is not if you can’t converse with one another? What mystery is there that they can solve together?

Pieces of a castle
Pieces of a castle ready to be transported

This caper isn’t the most modern, nor is it written from any sense of female point of view; but knowing when this book originally came out, 1980, and the writing style at the time put things into perspective a little bit. While reading, at times I would think things like“ oh wow, a man definitely wrote this” but I felt like the overall story didn’t take on too much of a misogynist undertone. Donald Westlake had a very fun and unique spin to your classic crime novel. Castle in the Air was a pleasant change up for me in its setting. The entirety of the story takes place in Europe, which was a fun change.

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A book by this guy is cause for happiness — Stephen King 

There are lots of events taking place, everyone mistrusts everyone, and there is still a crime that needs to be committed. The back story of the castle has plenty of mysterious undertones as well, filled with suffering and oppression. Our refugee plays her part very well and knows what she is doing — even when she is reunited with the living dead. Each criminal knows how to do their job and knows how to overcome all of the unforeseen obstacles that are thrown at them. I found that throughout the book, the author was able to keep my interest by creating scenario after scenario to hold my attention. 

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The view from Paris, should a Castle go here?

As I had mentioned previously, Castle in the Air was originally published in the 80’s. Having had a blast with this narrative, I feel like this book would have been one of a kind and 100% unique. As time goes on, it definitely feels as though other writers have read his book and drawn inspiration from it. Because of that I felt like some of the scenarios that Donald E. Westlake created were a little easy to guess. However with that said, I still wanted to keep reading. I enjoyed reading this book at the end of a very stressful day, when I needed something light hearted, funny, without too convoluted of a storyline. While I did not read this book in one day or stay up at night pondering the plot, I did rely on this book to bring up my mood and bring entertainment to my evening. 

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If you’re a fan of the classic caper story, and love a plot rife with humor, I’d definitely suggest giving Castle in the Air a read! Grab a hot cup of tea, lots of snacks, and get ready to unwind for the night. It worked wonders for me.

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  • Unique
  • Funny
  • Good Read


  • Predictable
Holds your interest
Fun read

Final Verdict

I found this book a perfect, light hearted read. Wonderful after a stressful day when you need a bit of humor to lighten your life and stop the Monday blues.