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Dirty Money    by Richard Stark order for
Dirty Money
by Richard Stark
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2008 (2008)

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

It is in some ways difficult for a reviewer to find anything meaningful and useful to say about Dirty Money or, for that matter, anything else written by Richard Stark (a.k.a. Donald Westlake). Stark (Westlake) has written more than a few dozen novels (and an impressive array of short stories and screenplays), so the simple fact is that Stark (Westlake) is a very well-established author with a respected (and enormous) body of work who really doesn't need to concern himself about whether or not his latest work is reviewed (which tends to give the work free publicity) or even favorably reviewed (which tends to translate into improved sales, at least so goes the conventional wisdom). Nevertheless, with all that having been said, there are still some things worth noting about the highly recommended Dirty Money, the latest top-notch noir thriller from an American master.

Prospective buyers and readers of Dirty Money will want to know that it is something of a sequel to the previously well-received Nobody Runs Forever in which master criminal Parker and two partners in crime made off with $2.2 million during a daring armored car robbery in New England; in the immediate aftermath of the brazen crime, the police scrutiny was so intense that the trio of erstwhile multimillionaires left the money behind in an old church in rural Massachusetts. Now, when the story-line and the action resume in Dirty Money, Parker is constantly on the move (with his girl Claire) throughout New Jersey, Long Island, and New England as he tries to figure out how to recover the money (which cannot be spent because the authorities have a record of all the serial numbers) and how to launder the money (which may mean a loss of 90% of its value, even if he can find someone to handle the laundering).

At the same time, the police are closing in on the trail of the three thieves (and the money), the thieves (Parker, Nelson McWhitney, and Nick Dalesia) are on the verge of turning on each other (with one of them coming dangerously close to spilling the beans to the authorities), an attractive woman named Sandra Loscalzo (a gal with a predatory instinct who should not be ignored) is worming her way into earning (or simply helping herself to) a share of the purloined profits, and an eccentric assortment of other characters combine with the aforementioned characters to make life extraordinarily complicated and dangerous for Parker. As the double-crosses and the dead bodies accumulate, as the police pursuit intensifies, and as the action in the novel builds to a pulse-pounding climax, Parker - a career criminal with a colorful past but questionable future - may be in over his head.

And so, the question arises: Is Parker finally reaching the end of the road? As for the answer to that question, readers will have to find out for themselves about Parker's fate. My lips are sealed.

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