Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review: The Score

I don't always read crime novels, but when I do, I prefer a Richard Stark Parker novel.

Beer commercial spoofs aside, it's true, I like me some crime noir, especially the variety written by Richard Stark.  I've already read and reviewed The Hunter, and The Outfit and both were awesome.  So, when the craving came for some more crime readin' I figured I should dive back in.   For those of you who are up on things in the comic world you'll notice that the novels I've read in this series coincide with the  graphic novels that Darwyn Cooke has adapted.  Sure, I haven't read any of those yet, but I hope to one day, but not before reading the books first.

The Score is probably my favorite in the Parker series so far.  It is a novel that is very straight forward and simple in design, but quite complex when it comes to actual details.

The format of The Score is one that will be familiar to anyone who has seen Ocean's Eleven, or any of it's sequels.  It goes like this:  Our hero, or more accurately, the criminal that we root for, Parker, has been given a job proposal: to knock off an entire town, and make off with a few hundred thousand in cash.  Though the caper sounds impossible, is plagued by what-ifs, and numerous intangibles, the potential score is too much to resist and Parker decides to take the job.  From there it is a matter of assembling the right crew, and figuring out all the details so as to limit the risk involved.  Then you get to the really good part where the big caper goes down, and you have no idea how it's all gonna turn out.

This "proposition-plan-plan in action" sequence is tried, true and maybe a little tired out, but it has never been done so well as Stark does it here...and he did it waaaay before those Brad Pitt/George Clooney films.  Especially when it comes to the part where the gang tries to pull off the caper.  Maybe it's the fact that I've never seen, or read a crime story where the crooks try to rob an entire town and get away clean as a whistle but it sure makes for an awesome read.

Stark is scarily good with detailing out how the crime goes down.  This isn't a knock on the man's character or anything, but he really seems to know a lot of tricks of the criminal the point that you might think he has extensive experience as a criminal himself.  He was probably too busy writing bad-ass crime stories to lead a life of crime, but he sure brings that whole crime world stuff to vivid life on the page and gives the story an air of authenticity. It's fascinating.

This novel has a greater focus on the art of conceiving and pulling off the big score than past Parker novels which had a blend of crime and Parker being an all around cold-hearted bad-ass.  In The Score, he's more of a mastermind and jack of all trades criminal trying to make a buck.  He sorta takes a back seat to the action going on around him.  This is easily the least character driven novel of the three Parker  books I've read, but that's not a bad thing.  This one is all about creating the perfect crime out of a nearly impossible task.

True to Richard Stark form; there's a couple of nice twists along the way to keep readers from getting too comfortable and keep things interesting.  For my monety, The Score provided the perfect scratch to my crime itch.  I'm a perfect three for three with Richard Stark's Parker novels, so it seems pretty likely that I'll be reading more somewhere down the road.  If you are looking for a quick yet quality read that will provide a bit of a breather from your usual reading niche?  Look no further.

Grade: A

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