Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Starktober 8: The Handle

Parker is a professional thief, and his jobs usually fall into the same broad outline: some private company has a lot of money in one location, so Parker and a few independent men in the same line of work take it upon themselves to relieve that company of that money. They don't go up against governments, they don't have long-term alliances or working groups, they don't work for or against organized crime, and they certainly don't have any connection with any international intrigue.

But in The Handle, like The Mourner a few books earlier, Parker -- and his co-conspirators on this job, including the devilish actor Alan Grofield -- are looped into a job connected to both organized crime and international intrigue. And, as usual, the one thing that can make Parker and the others bend their rules is the promise of a huge payoff: as much as fifty thousand apiece for four men.

A man who calls himself Wolfgang Baron recently set up an offshore casino in the Gulf of Mexico -- on a small island not previously attached to any country, though he got Cuba to claim it as a shelter for his operation -- close enough to get a lot of traffic from US ports like Galveston. The Outfit is angry about this because Baron's operation competes with their own casinos, and because Baron refuses to cut them in. And the US government is angry because "Baron" is actually Baron Wolfgang Friedrich Kastelbern von Altstein, whose activities on behalf of his native Germany during WWII -- though possibly more harmful to his Fatherland than helpful, due to his larcenous ways -- have put him on the war criminal list. So the Outfit wants Baron to teach him a lesson, and the feds want von Altstein to throw him in jail.

Parker, on the other hand, just wants Baron's money -- he's got at least a hundred and fifty thousand on hand at all times, and as much as a quarter-million some days. With three other men and the backing of the Outfit -- the most unusual wrinkle in this job when Parker agreed to it, though many more would come along the way -- he's confident that he can steal the money, burn down the casino, and get away. He also promises the Outfit that he'll deliver Baron to them, with no intention of ever carrying that out. And they'll stay off his back until after the heist, not because they trust him, but just because they know he'll try the job, and, at the very worst, the four heisters will get killed on Baron's island and cause trouble along the way.

But the Feds, once they learn what's going on, are both more insistent and better equipped, with a helicopter to follow Parker's boat out to the island and enough agents to keep tabs on the whole gang until the day of the heist. They won't be satisfied with promises, and the agents in place on the island to keep watch might just ruin the job -- if a rejected member of the team, a pedophile just sprung from prison by the Feds as their obvious mole, doesn't ruin everything first.

It all comes together into explosions and fire on that remote island, with Baron's men shooting at the heisters and the heisters shooting back, with the Feds circling nearby, ready to swoop in once someone reaches US waters or soil. And it all ends with Parker, Grofield, and Baron all separately reaching a remote Mexican beach with most of the loot, branching out from there to the next two novels: The Damsel, to follow Grofield from his recuperation in a Mexico City hotel to Acapulco with a young American woman with even more secrets than he has; and The Rare Coin Score, to see what Parker got up to next after he got out of Mexico himself.

Starktober Introduction and Index

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