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
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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 GaughanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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