Ask the Parrot
Sometimes mystery master Donald E. Westlake is the author of uproarious crime capers. Sometimes he has a mean streak-and its name is Parker. From his noir classic The Man with the Getaway Face to his recent novel Nobody Runs Forever, whenever Westlake writes as Stark, he lets Parker run loose-a ruthless criminal in a world of vulnerable "straights."
On a sunny October afternoon a man is running up a hill. He's not dressed for running. Below him are barking police dogs and waiting up ahead is a stranger-with a rifle, a life full of regrets, and a parrot at home who will mutely witness just how much trouble the runner, Parker, can bring into an ordinary life.
The rabbit hunter is Tom Lindahl, a small-town lonely heart nursing a big-time grudge against the racetrack that fired him. He knows from the moment he sees Parker that he's met a professional thief-and a man with murder in his blood. Rescuing Parker from the chase hounds, Lindahl invites the fugitive into his secluded home. He plans to rip off his former employer and exact a deadly measure of revenge-if he can get Parker to help.
But Tom doesn't know Parker and that the desperate criminal will do anything to survive-no matter who has to die...
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This is the second of what you might call the Massachusetts Bank Heist Trilogy, following Nobody Runs Forever and preceding Dirty Money.
As usual, Parker leaves a trail of bodies in his wake, but as usual, it's not his fault. Thiemann, the deer hunter who wants to be a hero, really commits suicide by cop. Cal Dennison is just one of those trigger-happy fellers who seems to find his self-esteem by getting into trouble. Well, his troubles come to an end in this book; and his twin brother Cory may follow him to shiftless people's heaven, or may not. That we don't find out here.
It's a pretty absorbing book, as all of them are. Parker really is a hero, or maybe anti-hero. When Cal expresses an interest in Tom Lindahl's parrot (since Cal has a patch over one eye, it would accentuate the "pirate" them to have a parrot, so he thinks), when Parker happens to be there and Tom out, Parker tells him simply, "That's Tom's parrot," and that's the end of it. Parker really has a sharp sense of people's property rights. That's why he's so good at robbery. When Tom complains that Parker steals a few thousand from "a boy," Parker explains that it was not the boy's money, but that of a large retail corporation with 600 outlets all over the country. Makes a big difference, don't you think?