I’m reading with delight Geoff Manaugh‘s Burglar’s Guide to the City.
It’s a trek through urban design and crime, based on the conceit of burglary as a form of architectural criticism. So you have criminals like “Roofman”, who broke through the identical roofs of identical McDonalds franchises, relying on their identical layouts and shift patterns to empty the cash registers and go. Or George Leonidas Leslie, the 19th-century architect turned criminal mastermind — who would build replicas of bank vaults, then train his team to rob them against a stopwatch.
Or my favourite: the gloriously nerdy Jack Dakswin, champion of the fire code:
A retired burglar based in Toronto, Dakswin amazed me with tales of his extensive, homeschooled expertise in the city’s fire code, explaining how the city’s own regulations can be read from the outside-in by astute burglars, turning Toronto’s fire code into a kind of targeting system. Simply by looking at the regulated placement of fire escapes on the sides of residential high-rises, Dakswin could deduce which floors had fewer apartments (fewer would mean larger, more expensive apartments, more likely to be filled with luxury goods) and even where, on each floor, you might expect to find elevator shafts and apartment entrances. He could thus build up a surprisingly accurate mental map of a building’s interior simply by looking at its fire escapes, a virtuoso act of anticipatory architectural interpretation that most architects today would be hard-pressed to replicate.