Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Starktober 7: The Seventh

In the aftermath of The Jugger, Parker is on the run, his former leisure-time cover as Charles Willis blown and with no resources except a hundred dollars in his pocket and whatever cars he can steal. He's in no position to be picky about his next job, so he clearly lept at a nice professional job knocking over a big college-football game with six other professionals, most of whom he knew. This is the seventh Parker novel -- Stark is being sneaky with the title, as he often is in these stories -- but The Seventh most directly refers to Parker's cut of the heist: one-seventh of the take, which is being split evenly.

The heist at Monequois -- a fictional Ivy League school away from big cities; call it Dartmouth with a sillier name -- went well, and Parker had settled into an apartment with all of the loot and a willing young woman to wait out the few days of hottest police attention. After three days in one small apartment, he went out to the corner for beer and cigarettes and came back ten minutes later to find that girl dead -- stabbed through the headboard with a sword that had been on the wall -- the money gone, and police coming through the door minutes later.

Parker gets away from the cops, and immediately chases down Kifka, the man who organized the job -- but he's stuck sick in bed, cared for by his own girl, and clearly hasn't gone anywhere recently. And none of the rest of the crew knew where Parker was, so this clearly was some outsider -- Parker quickly seizes on the idea that it was someone connected to the dead girl, not to him, and that the theft was a surprise opportunity.

But whoever the killer is, he hasn't gone away -- he shoots at Parker twice more over the next day, clearly wanting to clear up that loose end. And the police are sure the murder is connected to the robbery at the game, and are closing in from both ends. So they're all chasing each other: police chasing the killer and the heisters, the heisters chasing the killer, the killer chasing the heisters. And they all find each other, at the end of this short, sharp novel -- which, even in its brevity, gives Stark enough space to give viewpoints and agency to most of the heisters and the main cop, Detective Dougherty, alongside the implacable Parker -- out of which most of them will not emerge alive.

The Seventh is yet another job gone sour for Parker, one where everything goes wrong and he's left scrambling just to get out alive with his money, or any money at all. It's lucky for Parker that's what he's the very best at: getting out alive ahead of his troubles, moving on to the next job or problem. By this point, it's a clear pattern: each Parker novel stands alone, certainly, but they're all connected, like jewels on a strand (stolen from some bank vault, and fenced quietly later), each one leading inexorably into the next. Parker's troubles here will certainly follow him into the next book, The Handle.

Starktober Introduction and Index

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