Friday, September 9, 2022

Review: The Outfit

The Outfit The Outfit by Richard Stark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Parker and the Outfit had a dispute in the first book of the series, Parker warned them what he’d do if they didn’t leave him alone. But after surviving an attempt on his life, it’s time for Parker to make good on his threat.

As Parker told the bosses of the Outfit, all the professional thieves know each other, and all of them have worked out some kind of scenario for robbing one of their operations because they’re cash-rich and won’t bring any legal attention. Potential revenge by the Outfit is the only thing stopping anyone from acting on their plans. But if someone fired a starting gun and they all hit at the roughly the same time, the confusion would greatly increase the chances that they’d be able to get away with no payback.

Parker writes a series of letters asking his fellow thieves to go ahead and hit any syndicate operation they’ve had their eye on. Many jump at the chance, not out of any friendship or loyalty to Parker (Parker doesn’t have friends.) but because someone gave them an excuse. As the Outfit reels from the shock of multiple robberies and the loss of a small fortune, Parker is going to find the head man and settle his problem once and for all.

This is one of the few Parker books that wouldn’t use the plot of him planning a job, carrying it out and dealing with complications, and it gives Stark (a/k/a Westlake) a chance to spin several mini-stories in the middle of the book as he deftly describes some of the different robberies that Parker’s fellow thieves carry out against the Outfit.

This one really solidifies Parker’s no-nonsense nature. With no patience for polite chit-chat or other social niceties, Parker’s encounters with other people can be hilarious. When he recruits Handy McKay to join him on his attempt to get to the top Outfit man, Parker offers money and a chance at picking up more along the way. When McKay indicates that he doesn’t really care about the money, that he’s going along because of their relationship, Parker is baffled and uncomfortable about it. He doesn’t understand sentimentality and doesn’t like that McKay is showing it about him.

Another solid Parker outing that wraps up a lot of the overall plot arcs from the first couple of books but leaves one nice dangling thread for Parker to pick up in the next one.

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