Firebreak by Richard Stark

Firebreak by Richard Stark
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Between Parker’s 1961 debut and his return in the late 1990s, the whole world of crime changed. Now fake IDs and credit cards had to be purchased from specialists; increasingly sophisticated policing made escape and evasion tougher; and, worst of all, money had gone digital—the days of cash-stuffed payroll trucks were long gone.

But cash isn’t everything: Flashfire and Firebreak find Parker going after, respectively, a fortune in jewels and a collection of priceless paintings. In Flashfire, Parker’s in West Palm Beach, competing with a crew that has an unhealthy love of explosions. When things go sour, Parker finds himself shot and trapped—and forced to rely on a civilian to survive. Firebreak takes Parker to a palatial Montana “hunting lodge” where a dot-com millionaire hides a gallery of stolen old masters—which will fetch Parker a pretty penny if his team can just get it past the mansion’s tight security. The forests of Montana are an inhospitable place for a heister when well-laid plans fall apart, but no matter how untamed the wilderness, Parker’s guaranteed to be the most dangerous predator around.

Parker is brought in on an interesting heist by two colleagues he’s worked well within the past. This time it’s the Montana refuge of a dot com billionaire and his very well secured mini art gallery that’s in the team’s sights. With plenty of security the team’s tech is positive he can overcome they’re keen to get the many priceless paintings. Only someone is on Parker’s tail and the team is on a tight timeframe. Can they make it work?

I’ve found the Parker heist series to be an absolute gem. Tersely written and somewhat gritty, this series might have been around for a while but it solidly holds up to time. Some things – like heisters planning and executing a heist – simply doesn’t go out of fashion to my mind. Parker himself also holds true. Focused, driven and coldly professional he’s an anti-hero but one of the absolute best to my mind and still somehow the character you’re rooting for most. Even if I’d not want to try and carry out a conversation with him.

Stark’s usual formula is also at play here. The book is divided up into four sections and they each weave perfectly together. Readers who pick this up and are new to the series are in for a treat – these are like a block of the very best chocolate or a packet of your favourite treats. Once you start you simply want another then another. The pacing is excellent – fast enough you get carried away by the action and heist itself, but not so fast you can’t work out exactly what’s happening. The characters are leanly written and there’s virtually no flourishes at all to the writing – it’s like an older, hard-boiled kind of detective novel in all the best ways.

An excellent heist story with a small but intriguing set of characters and an exceptional writing style that gives you everything you need and a few good twists in the plot I found this to be a wonderful story and another addition to a series that’s one of my absolute favourites. Recommended.