Parker's back in jail, but not just any old jail; it's the correctional center, where people without bail wait before and during their trial. So Parker's first order of business is to build a network among these cons and break on through to the other side.
This fifth book about master criminal Parker since his welcome return from a 20-year hiatus is packed so tightly with the painstaking details of everything from the dank tedium of prison life to the architecture and construction of a Midwestern shopping complex that it comes as a shock to realize the volume isn't bigger than it is. Stark, the nom de crime adopted for this series by MWA Grand Master Donald Westlake, is an artist of compression, with the ability to create a complex, frightening character in very few words. Of an Asian lawyer visiting Parker in prison, he writes, "Li was amused, not by Parker in particular but by his own entire life; it made him easy to be around, but suggested there were circumstances when he might not be completely reliable." But Stark is also remarkable because he seems to know how everything works and can explain it without slowing down the story. Stuck in a fortress-like holding prison "on the outskirts of the only large city in this big empty midwestern state" after a robbery goes bad, Parker links up with two other prisoners in a totally logical way, then plans a breakout (the first of several in the book) so credible that we're swept up in its mechanics. But before he can return to his haven in rural New Jersey, Parker has to pay off the help he received by taking part in another robbery that falls apart in a different way that's just as exhilarating. Watching artists like Stark and Parker at work is a great pleasure, which an increasing audience will be delighted to share. (Nov. 20) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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October 31, 2003
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