Book #29: The Outfit

Richard Stark's third Parker novel, The Outfit, wraps up the story threads started in debut novel The Hunter. That one introduced us to the cold, unwavering instrument that is Parker, a career criminal that is left for dead after a robbery gone wrong. When we left Parker in the Hunter, he had gotten his money back from the Outfit (the 60's term for what is essentially a nationwide crime syndicate), and told them to leave him alone or else he'd have all his criminal friends start a spree of robberies against the Outfit from which they'd have a hard time overcoming. The next book, The Man With the Getaway Face, finds Parker's new identity compromised, and he's forced to act accordingly to keep the Outfit from figuring out where he is.

Well, that didn't work, and that's a good thing, because The Outfit is a great entry in the Parker series. It opens in bed, with a woman and a sudden assassination attempt. The Outfit's found him, and it's time to make good on his promise. Parker travels across the country, writing letters and talking to associates, and before you know it the Outfit's been hit 12 times in five days for over $2,000,000. Stark (aka Donald E. Westlake) takes great delight in the middle of the book, devoting each chapter to a particular robbery.

But the spotlight is deservedly on the main character, a cold hearted bastard who finds for the first time that he's using his professional skills for personal reasons, and he doesn't like it. It's not enough to simply hurt the Outfit - he has to go straight to the top and make sure things are taken care of for good.

In the end it comes back to a woman, and a gun that was left behind, and Parker knows he has another adventure ahead of him.

Thank God.