I just finished reading The Score, which is #5 in the Parker series by Richard Stark. I’ve been reading them in the order they were written, although I’m not sure that’s really important. I did not grow up reading crime fiction, other than John D. MacDonald’s work. So I was very late discovering the Parker novels. I had certainly heard quite a bit of good stuff about them before I ever tried one, but it wasn’t until November 2014 that I got to the first one in the series. I was bowled over by that book, The Hunter, and immediately bought the next 12 or so in the series. Here are my reviews of the first five books:
The Hunter: (4 stars). I had never read anything by Richard Stark, or by Donald Westlake, which is the author's real name. The Stark books feature a character named Parker, who is generally described as a thief, although he certainly does plenty of killing too. This is the first one in that series and there are at least 23 more. This one has been filmed at least twice that I know of. I enjoyed this one a lot and am irritated at myself for waiting so long to read one. I'd been hearing good things about them for years.
What we are looking at with this book is a stripped down, noir tale. No wasted motion, no wasted words, no wasted description. This makes it a quick read. I didn't quite get through it in one sitting but came close.
I like books with rich, sensuous description, but this one doesn't have any of that and I liked it too. I suspect that I wouldn't want to read three or four of them back to back, but it's a quick, hard hitting work that you can mix in among other, perhaps more leisurely, reads.
The Man with the Getaway Face: (4 stars). This is the second in the Parker series. Not quite as compelling as the first to me, but still very good. Parker is a real SOB in many ways and you don't necessarily root for him, but the combination of the intensity of that character and the compelling plot line keeps you turning the pages. I've just started the third in the series.
The Outfit: (4 stars). Third in the Parker series. Parker went to all the trouble to get a new face that was revealed in book 2, but finds by the end of that book that his new appearance has been revealed anyway and the "Outfit," (Organized Crime) is out to kill him. Parker strikes back as only he can do. Good one!
The Mourner: (3 stars). This is still a good read, but I liked it least of the four Parker books I've finished so far. One reason is that Parker is actually only on the scene for a little over half the book. Quite a bit of the book follows another guy named Menlo, who has betrayed Parker. Still, it was a quick, enjoyable read.
The Score: (3 stars). This is the longest of the Parker books I’ve read so far and I’d rank it about where I ranked #4, The Mourner. It was good, but not as good as the first three. In this book, a man comes to Parker and some colleagues with an idea for a huge score, one in which they’ll essentially rob an entire town. Everything seems to be going well when the fellow who initiated everything turns out to have a private agenda. Hell breaks loose. I thought there were a few slow spots, particularly where Parker’s crew is hiding out for a while. Parker also had less to do with the resolution of the story than in the previous books. I still enjoyed it quite a lot, however. And fortunately I have quite a few more of these books on my shelves!