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on October 14, 2002
Joe Sheer, a fine old man, retired safecracker (jugger), has been Parker's contact man for years. Parker receives a disquieting letter from Joe and wonders if he is getting a little old for the job. Parker decides to pay him a visit, not to present a gold watch, but perhaps to help Joe along to his eternal rest. The usually overly careful Parker flies to Sagamore, Nebraska to have a hands-on visit with Joe using his clean-as-a whistle alias, Charles Willis.
Picture Smalltown U.S.A. Friendly folks, picket fences, nicely clipped lawns, tree shaded lots, porch swings, and you have Sagamore. Now picture deadly purposeful Parker strolling down the sidewalks. Neither one of them are quite ready for the other. Alas for Parker, there is no heist this time, Joe is already dead, and the local and state police are taking far too much interest in Charles Willis. Parker has to put his superb planning abilities in high gear to settle the natives, and solve the mystery of Joe's alleged buried fortune. Parker's sole interest in this is to get Charles Willis back to Miami unknown and uninvestigated.
This is a fine Parker outing where Parker is the only one in Sagamore with good sense, and with much exasperation has to lead the law to the truth. To get the job done, a few homicides happen, and a left over lady with "the eyes of a pickpocket and the mouth of a whore" helps him out. "The Jugger" is best read after you have read a couple other Parker novels for background. For all other Parker aficionados, this is choice.
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VINE VOICEon February 22, 2011
Parker is threatened. His long time friend, Joe Sheer, a retired safe cracker or jugger, wrote him a letter begging for his help. Joe Sheer is the only person alive that knows Parker's cover character Charles Willis. Parker spent many years and much money to build his cover and if it is exposed he would have nowhere to lay low with confidence.

Parker travels to Joe's retreat, a tiny town in Nebraska, and discovers that Joe is dead. Since he visited the town using his alias name, he realized that he was now exposed. But what happened to Joe? Why did Joe beg him to come? The Jugger is the story of how Parker survives this major threat.

Investigating Joe's death, Parker learns that several people are convinced that Joe had a large treasure stash and all of them want to find the money and get a large cut. Parker, who believes his old friend never had such a treasure, stays around to try to save his "safe" alias. This is the toughest job Parker has had. Can he save himself?

The Jugger is a violent, action packed thriller. Parker's clever and sometimes desperate actions lead to excitement and intrigue. I highly recommend The Jugger.
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on May 17, 2014
I don't usually read book series other than Tom Clancy, but I do read and love Westlake's (Richard Stark pen names) Parker Series. This is #6 and suggest reading in order.

As other reviews have noted, Westlake has admitted regrets about the Jugger...Parker appears to have gone soft. I don't agree.

The Jugger is consistent with theme of Parker as a flawed human being and master criminal with many qualities. Parker is smart, clever, perceptive about people and human nature, amoral, and only violent when he needs to be. Anyone who is skilled in their craft or business will respect Parker's expert craft as a criminal.

Parker lives in the moment like any good sales person. Not the past. Not the future. Though he respects only dependable people he has worked with in the past. Bozzo's and other undependable types get written off or killed. Mess with drugs, alcohol, or women during a job means you are a Bozzo and are undependable. Parker also plans financially. He pays income taxes to establish legitimacy, stashes cash everywhere like a squirrel, and only "works" enough to replenish his cash. The smart criminal.

About the story: As with other Parker stories, nothing is as it seems, and all the pieces come together by the end of the story. One of Parker's dependable ex-crime partners is in trouble and unclear why. Parker travels to Nebraska not because he cares about his friend--he has no friends--but fear that something might leak about himself and his own criminal past. Parker leaves nothing to chance, so he quickly decides he must travel from his motel "home" in Miami to Nebraska.

The rest of the story is Parker figuring out what happened and not allowing any loose ends that might lead back to him. Story includes dumb cops, crooked cop, diligent cop, old undependable criminal partner, nosey neighbors, corruptible/weak medical doctor, and petty small town corruption.

Tip: You do need to adjust to the times--1960s. No mobile phones, no Internet, no video cameras, no Miami Vice-type weapons, and 1960's prices to match the times.

Jugger is a Great Read. Another Great Parker story. And perfect "novelette" size for one long plane ride.
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on July 27, 2014
A jugger sounds like some mythical creature out of Dr. Seuss's imagination. What in blazes is it? Apparently, in the world of
Parker, a jugger is a safecracker, although I haven't seen that slang anywhere else..

Joe Sheer is a retired jugger. But, he's still connected to the life. He knows everyone and has many good ideas. For Parker, this guy Sheer is his contact when he disappears into his Charles Willis identity. Someone wants to contact Parker about a job, they don't go and blow up his safe identity. They call Sheer. Sheer contacts Parker or holds the info till Parker makes contact. It's like having a private mail drop. So what happens when something goes wrong with this private mail drop? What happens if someone gets the drop on old man Sheer and finds out that Charles Willis is Parker. Well, all kinds of trouble and enough to fill a whole book.

The Jugger is the sixth Parker novel and not considered to be one of the best. Westlake himself has had misgivings about this one, deciding after it was published that Parker wouldn't have gone to Sagamore to help anyone, but it's been pointed out that Parker's goal was preserving his clean identity of Charles Willis, a Parkerian selfish motive. This one differs from the other Parkers in that there wasn't a caper he was pursuing or escaping from, but Parker still had a mission here. When his contact ( Joe Sheer) went missing, Parker needed to know if anyone was on to Parker's own identity.

It has some amusing bits when Parker gets to town and every yahoo he meets thinks Parker is after the same thing they are, but Parker just plays along.

Particularly good was the creation of the character of Captain Younger, who, even for a bumbling small town cop, has a fascinating backstory. Younger is a yahoo who found his calling in the US Army and then after putting in his thirty years, doesn't know where to send his pension check to. His folks are gone. He doesn't know anyone he cares to contact. So he has his check sent general delivery to Sagamore where he lived thirty years earlier and ends up there.

But Westlake's delivery is smooth and he tells the story well. Thumbs up.

What's so great about these Parker books? They are written smoothly in a matter of fact style. It feels like Stark (Westlake) doesn't use any extraneous words. As the name implies, the verbiage is stark. It's not fancy. It's not flowery. Stark is just a great storyteller.

If you haven't read the Parker series before, you are sure in for a treat.
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on March 9, 2013
This is the 6th book in a series of 24 Parker books written by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) between 1962 and 2008. As in past reviews I recommend that books in a series be read from the first one ("The Hunter") in the order written because occasionally a reference is made to a previous caper or people he has worked with in the past. No spoilers here but I will say for those not familiar with the series Parker is a master thief who does not believe in killing for the sake of it, but don't try to double cross him. Well, a little spoiler: In "The Jugger" Parker has to try and outwit a small-town police chief in order to keep his cover intact. Does he? Well, read the book.
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on March 28, 2002
Talk about waking from a coma. The Jugger begins confusingly - good confusingly, that is - with Parker in a hotel room in a small town in Nebraska. There's a dead guy in the obituary column, an annoying guy hanging around Parker, a cop outside. Everyone knows more than the reader at this stage, but nobody really knows anything. Turns out after a few chapters that the dead guy is the titular Jugger - a locks man who knew too much about Parker. The annoying guy and the cop think the dead guy knew something else - like where his life's earnings are hidden. Parker needs to make sure no one else knows what the dead guy really knew.
The story unfolds piece by piece, and Parker responds in the only way imaginable for one of fiction's most amoral characters.
Tough, very tight.
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on January 26, 2014
Parker gets caught out using an ID he'd rather keep secret.

Again, he deals with it, but things don't work out too well.

Another part of the series. You need to read it to keep up, and as usual the twists and turns of the saga are exceedingly well done and exciting..
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on December 19, 2013
The Parker novels are enjoyable. Hardly great literature, but a fun, light read.
They're short, though. More like what I think of as a novelette - most are in the 150-200 page range.
I bought this at $3.99 and felt it was reasonably priced. Maybe even a four star (at that price).
Now I see they're all $9.39
I won't be buying any more.
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on April 19, 2015
The Jugger may be among the best of Richard Stark's (i.e., Donald Westlake's) Parker books even though reputedly the author didn't think so. Perhaps because it's not a "caper book," as most of the others are, but it delivers more of Parker's psychology than many of the others because in it Parker, a master thief living incognito between heist jobs, must defend that alter ego's identity from exposure to the law. The lengths to which Parker has to go, and the ends he has to go to, are described in wonderful detail.

Briefly, Parker comes to the small Nebraska town of Sagamore where an old safecracker who acts as his go-between lives in anonymous retirement and has hinted in letters of being in some danger. Parker isn't there to help the old guy out. He's there to protect his own interests in true Parker fashion. Nevertheless, he not only finds the old man is dead but that his secret life is in danger of being inadvertently exposed by some local numbskulls looking for the old man's supposed buried treasure. The best character in the book is the local sheriff, a wonderful mixture of malignity, insecurity and stupidity who Parker nevertheless has to deal with and who would have been very much at home in a Jim Thompson novel.

One suggestion for anyone looking to read the Parker books: read them in chronological order as each has allusions to incidents in previous books (and in fact this one sets the next one up to be a humdinger!). They should be seen as one continuous chronicle of Parker's exploits, with the Jugger definitely being one of the highlights.
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on April 21, 2015
As always the ultimate anti-hero Parker takes care of Parker. His character is consistent and business-like, intelligent but not intellectual, savage but only when it has a utilitarian purpose. The novels follow each other in logical sequence so read the first novels and get Jugger in logical order.
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