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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
23 Years Won't Soften a Crook
Donald Westlake's alter ego, Richard Stark, returns with a vengeance in Flashfire, part of the long-running series featuring Parker, the consummate professional thief. Flashfire marks Parker's third reappearance since Stark/Westlake's surprising decision to revive the series in 1997, following a 23-year layoff. I'm happy to report that the years haven't mellowed Parker, who is as ruthlessly efficient and thoroughly amoral as ever. It's a pleasure to have him back.
Flashfire begins, in classic Stark fashion, with a robbery-in-progress, as Parker and his latest trio of partners take down a bank on the outskirts of Omaha. The robbery itself goes spectacularly well. Afterward, however, the thieves fall out. Parker's cohorts plan to use the proceeds from the bank job to finance a more ambitious scheme: a multimillion-dollar jewel heist scheduled to take place some months later in Palm Springs. When Parker declines to participate, his partners "borrow" his share of the take and send him on his way.
No one, of course, treats Parker like this and lives to tell about it. Over the next several weeks, Parker finances his own long-range plans through a series of brutal, lovingly described robberies. Once he has accumulated sufficient working capital, he heads to Palm Springs. Safely hidden behind the bland persona of Daniel Parmitt, member in good standing of the idle rich, he waits for his former partners to roll into town and steal 12 million dollars worth of jewelry from a local estate auction. At that point, he plans to hijack the jewelry and avenge his professional honor.
Nothing, of course, goes exactly according to the blueprint, and Parker finds himself facing some unanticipated problems. One takes the form of a middle-aged, blonde real estate agent who somehow intuits Parker/Parmitt's underlying agenda and wants a piece of the action. A second, more serious problem arises when a pair of professional hit men enter the picture and nearly succeed in taking Parker permanently off the board.
It's all great, dark, nasty fun, written in the stripped-down, streamlined prose that has characterized this series for almost 40 years. Like its protagonist, Flashfire is terse, observant, unsentimental, and always tightly focused. Westlake, as always, seems incapable of writing a bad or boring passage. All of his admirers, and all aficionados of the hard-boiled tradition, will need this book, which reaffirms its author's position as one of the most versatile, consistently reliable figures in the recent history of American popular fiction.||||||||
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has just been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).