Saturday, August 27, 2011

Parker in a Vise

This is the fourteenth entry in Richard Stark's excellent series about Parker, the amoral criminal whose carefully-laid plans almost always come undone because of some unforeseen accident or because of an act of carelessness by one of the other crooks involved in the plan. In this case, it's the getaway driver who screws everything up. This is not the driver that Parker would have prefered, but it's the driver that Parker had to settle for. And it's Parker who will now have to pay the price.

Parker and two accomplices hit an armored car for $70,000. (This is back in 1969, when $70,000 was still a lot of money.) The overconfident driver loses control of the getaway car and rolls it only a couple of blocks from the scene of the crime. With the cops hot on his tail, Parker grabs the loot and escapes into an amusement park across the street that is closed for the winter.

Parker fully expects an army of cops to surround the park and flush him out, but then several hours pass and nothing happens. It turns out that the two patrolmen who saw Parker go over the fence are corrupt cops in league with local mobsters. Rather than bringing Parker to justice, they intend to hunt him down, kill him and keep the cash for themselves. The result is a great cat-and-mouse chase in which Parker, out-manned and out-gunned, must use every trick in the bag to save himself. He's even more inventive and resourceful than usual, and Stark (Donald Westlake) produces a taut, gripping story with a great climax. Fans of this series will be very grateful to the University of Chicago Press for resurrecting this title which has been unavailable for a good number of years.

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