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by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake)
Warner Books, December 2002
297 pages
ISBN: 0446678244

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

FIREBREAK is the latest in a long series of mysteries involving a hardboiled criminal named Parker, in fact this is the 21st addition to this popular series. FIREBREAK presents a main character, who is a tough guy, concerned with his own survival and his own needs, as well as someone who protects the innocent people in his family. When the book opens, Parker has just killed a Russian assassin. Now Parker must determine who, from his past, would want to kill him. While cleaning up after the assassin, he gets a phone call from Frank Elkins and Ralph Wiss, with whom he had worked with on other robberies. They invite him to help plan/ execute a robbery of a hunting lodge in Montana.

Elkins and Wiss had previously attempted a robbery of Paxton Marinoís hunting lodge and discovered three hidden rooms full of stolen art Ė the majority of which are painting by the Old Masters. At the time of the first robbery, they were unable to take the art with them; hence, a second robbery attempt was necessary. Their partners, from the first robbery attempt, were caught and now require a large amount of money to continue to conceal Wiss and Elkinís participation. Now, with Parkerís help, along with an electronic wiz named Larry Lloyd, they want to return, steal the art and provide money with which their partners can leave the country. The majority of the book focuses on Parkerís attempt to find the source of the contact against his life and deal with the hotshot, James Bond-esque Lloyd; yet the upcoming heist is a vital undertone.

Richard Stark is the pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake. Even though Donald E. Westlake has a series with an antihero, i.e. a criminal, his books as Richard Stark do not focus as much on amusing situations but on a more realistic, gritty reality approached with humorous moments. In FIREBREAK, his characters are more concerned with their own safety than the concerns of a criminal community. An example of their individualism is apparent in Elkins and Wiss, who are willing to have their partners killed if they cannot buy their silence.

In FIREBREAK, Richard Stark presents a realistic villain who is concerned with his own personal gain and his own survival. FIREBREAK provides an enjoyable read regardless of the type of book a reader prefers. When looking for a taut mystery with an entertaining antihero, FIREBREAK is the book to chose.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, December 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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