RICHARD STARK – The Black Ice Score. Parker #11. Gold Medal #D1949; paperback original, 1968. Cover by Robert McGinnis. Berkley, paperback, 1973; Avon, paperback, 1985. University of Chicago Press, trade paperback, 2010.

   Professional thief non-pereil Parker is caught up in a three-way tangle in The Black Ice Score. The head of a small African country is trying to escape from that country with a good portion of that country’s treasury before he is caught and hanged from the nearest tree, and in that regard he has sent the funds ahead encapsulated in a fortune in diamonds. Faction two wants the diamonds to help maintain the country’s legal government, while faction three wants the jewels to help overthrow the country’s legal government.

   Then there is a scavenger trying to horn in on his own, hoping to enrich himself with some of the leftover spoils. Parker is persuaded to work with faction number two, hiring himself out as advisor only regarding as to how the well-guarded jewels may be stolen from faction number one.

   This is a heist novel, in other words.

   There is, unfortunately, to my mind, little here that deviates from most heist novels. There is the planning, the carrying out of the plan, dealing with what goes wrong with the planning – no plan in a heist novel ever goes off according to plan – and the tidying up at the end.

   Mitigating against the fact that the framework of the overall story line is almost completely etched in stone, is that Stark (aka Donald Westlake) was very nearly the most hard-boiled writers of his era, and Parker is very nearly most hard-boiled of characters. Not a word is wasted throughout the story, including in any of the dialogue.

   A steady diet of Richard Stark stories is not for me, but as spaced out timewise as I read them, they always go down extremely well.