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Flashfire: A Parker Novel (Parker Novels) Paperback – August 11, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews
Book 19 of 24 in the Parker Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Richard Stark's professional criminal, Parker, is so hard-boiled he could make an egg cry. Blunt and matter-of-fact (the less charitable might say cold and calculating), he has perfected the art of theft. Unfortunately, perfection can be a relative term, a concept made vulnerable by the honor--or lack thereof--among thieves. When Parker joins forces with three other crooks to rob a Nebraska bank, he's prepared for a gentlemanly division of the proceeds, not for a double-cross. But his colleagues have other plans for his share: it will be their seed money for a $12 million Palm Beach jewel heist. What's Parker to do but make his own plans to steal the Palm Beach loot from the double- crossers?

Working his way across the Southeast in a series of carefully executed robberies and changes of identity, Parker arrives in Palm Beach, where he finds more barriers along the path of revenge than he could have imagined. Chief among them: a diabolically clever plan by his former partners; a real estate agent named Leslie with an unfortunately sharp sense of character; and a team of professional hit men out for Parker's blood (but why?).

In his third outing after a long retirement by Stark (the pen name of Donald E. Westlake, revered for the comic capers of his bumbling crook, Dortmunder), Parker is in fine form: steely, sardonic, detached. Stark's acidly funny depictions of Palm Beach and its native fauna are a bonus:

Alice Prester Young knew she was a herd animal, and enjoyed the knowledge, because the herd she moved with was the very best herd in all the world. For instance, here she was, at five-thirty this Thursday afternoon, in her chauffeured Daimler, with her new husband, the delicious Jack, to pick up just the perfect jewelry for tonight's pre-auction ball, and she knew when she arrived at the bank she would be surrounded by her own kind, chauffeured and cosseted women with attractive escorts, all coming to the bank (the only bank one could use, really) because this particular bank stayed open late whenever there was an important ball in town, just so the herd could come get its jewelry out of the safe-deposit boxes.
Not to be missed by fans of gritty noir, nor by those who prefer their crime cocktails with a comic twist: Stark and Parker will give you both. --Kelly Flynn --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

If there was a Mohs' scale for the hardness of hard-boiled crime novels, it might be aptly named for Richard Stark. His character, Parker, is just about the coldest, hardest, most resolute professional thief in print today. Some of Parker's actions and calculations are purely chilling. So it's especially ironic, or better, remarkable, that Stark is actually Donald E. Westlake, who is better known for the comic capers of his star-crossed crook, Dortmunder. Here the flint-hard Parker has joined three other pros in robbing a midwestern bank. As soon as they make their getaway, the trio invites Parker to join them in a really big score--$12 million in diamonds from a Palm Beach mansion. Parker opts out, even after they explain that they need his share of the bank robbery as seed money. Righteously angry at being stiffed, Parker resolves to steal the Palm Beach haul from them. Needing his own seed money, Parker stages a series of carefully wrought but violent and brazen robberies. But an accident of poor timing--the kind of unforeseeable accident that usually forces Dortmunder to steal the same thing three times--puts Parker in the gunsights of professional hitmen and threatens his efforts to get more than even with his onetime partners. Diamond-hard crime fiction. Thomas Gaughan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Parker Novels
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (August 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780226770628
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226770628
  • ASIN: 0226770621
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #472,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Stark (pseudonym of Donald Westlake) wrote a series of novels concerning the anti-hero Parker. Unlike the typical anti-hero, Parker not only doesn't play by society's rules, he consciously breaks them. He is a professional criminal - a heister in his parlance. He plans and executes complex robberies: banks, jewelry stores, armored cars, and such. Parker is tough, ruthless but professional. He follows very few rules: never let anyone double cross you, kill only if you have to, but when you have to kill do it quickly and move on. The series is notable for the gritty realism, clever schemes and explanations of heists and of course, why they go wrong.

The novels are in two bunches. The group started in the USA of the late 1950's and early 1960's (The Hunter)and ended with Butcher's Moon in 1974. Stark returned to the character with Comeback in 1997. This novel was first published in 2000 and is the third in the second bunch.

Parker is now older and where once he could create a fake identity literally with a ballpoint pen and a few pieces of paper (see The Hunter) he now has to get professional help. In this case, he needs a new ID after a caper goes sour and like his very first adventure, he goes seeking his money from those who took it, ultimately this trail leads to Palm Beach.

The description of Palm Beach suggests Westlake has some familiarity with the area, and the bits of gossipy asides help give the book local color. The plot is clever and well thought through, although the denouement where Parker escapes the bad guys depends a bit on luck and supernatural forethought and planning.

A good book in the series; not too hard for new comers to get into. Worth comparing with The Hunter, The Man with the Getaway Face and The Outfit.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was my introduction to the work of Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake) and I just loved Parker. The character is a compelling blend of bad guy with good reason that reminded me powerfully of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley. It's quite a feat to put the reader squarely on the side of someone who, basically, is not a nice person. Highsmith did it; Stark/Westlake has done it, too. The man is a fine writer, with the gift of economy; no unnecessary descriptions, just pure driving narrative and vivid characterizations. I plan to get all the previous Parker books just as soon as I finish writing this review. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a tremendous fan of Donald Westlake/Richard Stark and I am knee deep in the Chicago Press reissues of the Parker novels. Actually I am not knee deep at all, I read the Parker novels with such childhood enthusiasm I am often sad that I have to wait months for the next set of books to come out. Firstly, "The Hunter" is the one Parker book that anyone who enjoys flawless character development and a true hard boiled crime story, should read. However, there are no bad ones in the series, Westlake was just too prolific and therefore some of the books are better than others. Flashfire is one of those "better" Parker books. Great story, paced perfectly, and the writing is as hard and gritty as you could possibly want from Westlake. I recommend this book highly. That saying about , "page turners" or "can't put it down"...yeah! That's what this one is. Go Buy it!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Parker's adventures this time lead him to Palm Beach, where only people who did not have to work for their money are part of the elite. Just being rich is not distinction enough. You must also be known to have inherited or, just barely acceptable, married your wealth. Nothing as vulgar as work or business counts. And yet, this old money elite is dead sure that they earned the right to live well. Stark masterfully depicts levels of caste distinction.

Parker has not come to rob, his usual craft, but mainly to take revenge. That is a matter of principle with him. His professional ethics don't allow him to let people live who have once double-crossed him. Could be though, that at the end of the revenge, he will also be able to carry away some loot.

In pace, action, and narrative efficiency, this is among the usual high standard for Parker. In the plot, however, I see holes, for the first time in the series. Maybe I am wrong and there are no real holes.
The gang wants to hide on the island after the heist, since escape will be near impossible, but they have chosen a house that will surely be searched. Not convincing. Parker had disagreed with the project and stayed out of it. So would I have. Ahem. Did Stark want to show us that these gangsters are idiots? The flaw is so obvious.
Similarly, their heist itself, while flashy and implemented with pizzaz, has an element of illogic with regard to the tools used... But explaining this would be a spoiler.

Or: the meddling woman, who desperately wants in on the heist as a way to a new life, behaves so recklessly that it can hardly be plausible, other than as a disguised suicide attempt. Crazy people do exist, but this person had been painted as a calculating risk taker, not as an outright nut who would walk into annihilation without blinking.

I tend to give Stark the benefit of doubt, ie he must have been aware that the heist here is flawed, and that the woman is desperately crazy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

Like a few earlier Parker novels, Flashfire begins with a successful robbery. This time Parker is teemed with all new people (recommended by his friend Hurley). But instead of splitting the loot the others all insisted that the proceeds be "invested" in a much more ambitious scheme, the robbery of jewels in Palm Beach.

Parker opts out, but his partners insist that his cut remain in the "investment" and that he will be paid later. Parker does not work that way. Parker plots his revenge.

Parker's main objection was that Palm Springs is an island with only limited entry and a huge police force specifically trained to protect the wealthy inhabitants of this Florida community. How can Parker get his revenge in the midst of all that security? Will he purposely cause them to fail in the robbery or instead tip off the police to their plan? Should Parker quietly kill his former partners, or assuming the robbery is a success, could he rob them after they score? Considering that Parker is a professional who would never interfere with another pro, how can he expect to succeed in getting revenge when he is one man against three?

This novel carefully narrates Parker conducting several profitable robberies to build his resources for his intended scheme. Since his adversaries know him, he builds and new identify complete with legitimate ID cards, legitimate addresses and legitimate financial records, and a startling disguise. Finally Parker moves into Palm Beach and prepares his revenge.

Flashfire is non stop action novel full of suspense and intrigue. If you like crime novels, you will love this Richard Stark story. I highly recommend this book.
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