by Richard Stark

"When the phone rang, Parker was in the garage, killing a

How's that for an opening? What I have just given you, my
friends, is the opening sentence of FIREBREAK, this year's Parker
offering from Richard Stark. Stark is the darker, grimmer half, if
you will, of mystery Grandmaster Donald Westlake. Where Westlake's
touch is humorous, Stark's is...well, stark. There is no laughter,
no joking. Parker lives in a world where a mistake can mean

Parker may well be the most amoral character in modern fiction. His
rough code is based entirely on his situation. He does nothing that
will not move or advance him forward. He will, on the other hand,
do anything to succeed. The reason that he is killing a man in his
garage is that the man had come to kill him. Parker spends a good
deal of FIREBREAK finding out why, and finding out who sent the
man. There are two reasons for this. The obvious one is that
whoever sent him will continue to send people to murder Parker
until one succeeds. Therefore, the reality of the situation
dictates that Parker find out who it is and kill them, in order to
stop the parade of would-be assassins.

The other reason is that Parker has been offered a part in a
complex caper, which requires his utmost focus. A dot-com
millionaire has a fortune in stolen art treasures stashed in a
mansion-like lodge he owns in remote Montana. The artwork is stored
in a hidden room, and the lodge is surrounded by state of the art
security. It will require a team to bring it out, and Parker is to
lead the team. He cannot do this, however, with the distraction of
being hunted. So he takes steps to take his pursuer out. In the
meantime, Larry Lloyd, a computer systems expert who is part of the
team, has an agenda of his own. Recently released from prison,
Lloyd is obsessed with taking revenge on a former business partner,
and his obsession may ruin the intricate plan that he is an
integral part of. Parker, busy with his own situation, soon finds
himself dangerously drawn into Lloyd's problems as well as his

Stark continues his ongoing development of Parker, refusing to be
drawn into formulaic plot development and keeping the reader
constantly guessing as to what will happen next and whether the
latest Parker book will also become the last. It's my gut feeling
that such a novel has already been written, waiting for the demise
of Westlake/Stark; in the meantime, however, Stark continues to
hone his tales with a sharp poetic knife, keeping that which is
aging new, fresh, and interesting.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

by Richard Stark

  • Publication Date: November 14, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 0892967110
  • ISBN-13: 9780892967117