The Mourner by Richard Stark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When Parker was in the middle of a night of passion with Bett Harrow, he got attacked by a would-be assassin from the Outfit. Parker dealt with the guy, but Bett ended up sneaking away with a gun that had Parker’s prints on it. Since his prints are on file from an old arrest and Bett knows his best assumed identity, this could lead to big problems.
Turns out that Bett, who has a thing for the bad boys, has a rich daddy who wants to have a small statue worth a fortune stolen from a diplomat who doesn’t realize what he has. For a hefty fee and the return of the gun with his prints, Parker agrees to the job. However, the diplomat’s communist government thinks he’s been embezzling and sends their most trusted spy to settle the matter just as Parker and his comrade Handy McKay are setting up their theft. Will Parker be able to do the job and recover the incriminating gun?
This is another stand-out Parker story with the usual complications and double-crosses screwing with what should be a simple job. Stark (a/k/a Westlake) uses this one to give us a better idea of Parker’s code of ethics, such as it is. While Parker is always a no-nonsense pragmatist who is willing to do things like torture people for needed info, he considers it a wasteful and unpleasant way to do things. He also shows that if he makes a deal, and if the other party holds up their end, that Parker will keep his word. (Usually.) But if anyone double-crosses him, then he’ll stop at nothing to get what he’s owed.
Another surprising thing in this one is the loyalty he shows to Handy McKay. When circumstances make it appear that ditching Handy would be a safer and more profitable option for several reasons, Parker still sticks with Handy and does quite a bit for him. Maybe it’s because he’s the closest thing to a friend that Parker has, but it was a little surprising seeing the unsentimental thief stick his neck out for somebody else.
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