Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Starktober 27: Ask the Parrot

Ask the Parrot begins only a minute or two after Nobody Runs Forever ends; Parker is climbing a slope behind a diner, having just learned that the name he's using -- that he just used, for that meal -- is being broadcast widely and tied to the robbery he and two compatriots just committed. There's a bad drawing of his face circulating; people might have to look twice at it to tie it to him, but a little attention could easily blow him up. He's stuck in the middle of countryside, a patch of small towns on the Massachusetts-New York border, filled with roadblocks without any ID to get him through. And the money he pocketed for immediate expenses from that robbery is all new bills, with numbers recorded and tracked. A helicopter is methodically searching nearby, and trackers are starting to come up that hill after him.

So what does he do? He runs into a guy who has an idea for a heist.

You have to give it to Parker: he's a magnet for trouble, certainly, but he's also a magnet for potentially lucrative robberies. His first choice would be to get far away from western Massachusetts entirely, and come back later to get the stashed money from the armored-car job in Nobody Runs Forever. Second choice would be to find somewhere comfortable to hunker down until the heat dies down. Actually doing another big robbery in the same area probably wouldn't make tenth place.

But Tom Lindahl is a sour hermit with a beef against the race track where he used to work: he blew the whistle on their scheme to launder money to politicians, but, when it was all over, the only thing that changed was that he lost his job, his wife, and his happiness. Four years later, he still knows all of the operating details of that track -- and sneaks back all of the time to keep his keys up-to-date and keep picking at the one open wound of his life. And he has the heist all planned out in his mind, but he knows he'd never have the courage to do it by himself.

Parker, as always, can be convinced to do a big robbery even when it's objectively a bad idea -- that's an underlying theme of a good third of the books in the series -- and, if nothing else, that track is further west than he already is, over the border in New York and closer to the edge of the police cordon. So Parker takes Lindahl's plan, changes it just a little to make it workable, and pushes to do it immediately.

But even the house of a hermit in a sparsely populated landscape is too busy for the heat on Parker; he and Lindahl get dragged into a search party for those mysterious bank robbers, causing one of Lindahl's neighbors to fall into a nearly suicidal depression and two dumb brothers to decide to shake Parker down. And the more people that get mixed up in a Parker heist, the more trouble there is -- and the more of them end up dead.

Parker does get through another heist here, but this is still the middle book of the final Parker trilogy -- coming up is Dirty Money, which sees him deliberately head back into the middle of that police cordon to get at the stolen money.

(I also covered Ask the Parrot here when it was published in 2006.)

Starktober Introduction and Index

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