Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Flashfire (apa "Parker") by Richard Stark ($12)

Even though "Flashfire" was written fairly recently in 2000, this is a classic crime novel. Clean, clever, enigmatic when it should be, plain-talking otherwise. Richard Stark, the alter ego of mystery master Donald Westlake, created one cool cat when he made Parker -- no first name given or needed. Parker is a thief with a devious mind, a code of ethics, and ice running through 90% of his veins. If you've read any of Westlake's funny Dortmunder books, you will be surprised at the no-nonsense Parker books. There is some humor, but it is of the ironic variety.

I love caper books. If they are done well, a reader can savor the finesse with which the crooks pull off their heist. "Flashfire" begins with a teaser heist. Then comes the double-cross. Of course, the re-cross has to follow, in this case with a (darkly) humorous twist. Lastly, there is the grand heist and the final accounting, and that's not referring to just the loot.

Parker runs a small heist in Nebraska with a group men with whom he has never worked. They ask him to participate in a larger theft in Florida. When he refuses, the group takes most of Parker's share of the heist money to finance their big job, definitely against his will. Just borrowing it, the group insists. And that buys the group a whole lot of trouble.

Parker has to finance his revenge, so we see him pull off a few solo jobs to make his nut. He controls as much as he can, but in the end, he has to rely on others in various ways. One of them, a real estate agent in Miami, Leslie Mackenzie, provides unintentional impediments to his scheme. Parker can juke with the best of them after a few spanners are tossed into the works and he has to come up with on-the-spot resolutions. So much cleverness packed into 278 pages!

Stark takes the time to flesh out a few of his side characters -- Leslie, most notably. Also, a portrait of an aging Florida society dame, while not necessary to the plot, adds luster to the book.

Stark weaves quiet pathos and desperation into his story. It's those tiny lights that illuminate his book.

1 comment:

  1. sorry to read your store closed, I never got to make it but heard about it since I live in the area. I'm always on the look out for good mystery books. currently reading the tea shop mysteries by Laura Childs. love the twist on Sherlock Holmes with Laurie R. King