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Firebreak    by Richard Stark order for
by Richard Stark
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2001 (2001)

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* *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

Parker is a man of action, not talk. When an intruder invades his home, Parker doesn't waste any time in idle chit-chat. He takes care of the situation immediately by taking care of the man, permanently. Of course, when this happens there is the pesky problem of the body to dispose of (not to mention the guy's car, etc.), but this is all in a day's work to Parker.

Before he has time to take care of the evidence, though, he's interrupted by a phone call. An associate has a job lined up if Parker has the time. This is not an ordinary job, for Parker is not an ordinary man - he's a thief. It entails lifting several paintings (which incidently are stolen works already) from a billionaire's Montana hunting lodge. Parker's friends know about the paintings because of a previous failed attempt to steal sundry other items from the lodge, and needless to say, security has been seriously beefed up since then. There is a time crunch, too - two participants in the original heist are out on bail, waiting for their share of the next attempt so they can reimburse their families when they jump bail and skip. If the case makes it to trial before this happens, they've threatened to turn over their partners to get reduced sentences.

This was my first introduction to Parker, and I must admit that I prefer Westlake / Stark's comic novels to his serious crime fiction. It's hard to really like Parker or his associates, not only because they are indifferent to violence, but because they're primarily motivated by self-interest. The technical expert, Lloyd, expresses his intense gratitude when Parker helps him out of a very bad situation, 'But you stayed, you put me back together again, and I want to thank you for it. Parker shrugged, watching the trucks ahead. "We need you for the job."' In other words, if Lloyd wasn't necessary, Parker would probably have taken care of this messy situation in a totally different way. Still, the story and characters hold your interest in a macabre way, fascinating you despite a slight distaste for the individuals. As in all of Westlake's books, there are plenty of plot twists, exciting turnarounds and subtle humor, and the ultimate outcome of the heist isn't known until the very end.

In Firebreak as always, Westlake is a master of intense action couched in ordinary but powerful language, and readers will be satisfied.

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