Hmm. This one's a bit... odd.
Where the previous book in Donald 'Richard Stark' Westlake's Parker series, The Sour Lemon Score, is a streamlined mean machine, Deadly Edge is a rather more clunky affair. For a start, there's the structure of the thing. Deadly Edge (Parker #13, in case you were wondering) is, like its predecessors, broken up into the now-traditional four parts. But in Part One, which details Parker and his latest crew's heist on a rock concert, rather than break the section up with chapters as he usually does, Westlake instead elects to write it as one long act. That's nearly fifty pages (in the Allison & Busby edition I was reading, anyway) of uninterrupted prose, which is unheard of in a Parker book. It's a strange choice, and one that has a deadening effect on the story, turning that first part of the book into something of a slog.
The Man with the Getaway Face) seem as mundane and matter-of-fact as he can.
With the discovery of a body at the end of Part One, however, and following a few chapters at the start of Part Two where Parker and his squeeze Claire play happy homemakers (not as incongruous as that sounds), the book shifts up a gear, sending Parker off in pursuit of a killer. This section of the novel is pretty effective, certainly more gripping than Part One, but it's also fairly scant; Parker rubs up against a local mob outfit, but nothing really comes of it, and before you know it Westlake has downshifted again, flung open the passenger door and brusquely deposited you in Part Three, in the company of the fragrant Claire.
Here again, Deadly Edge diverges from the norm. Usually the Stark Cutaways in Part Three of the Parker novels follow Parker's nemesis in that particular book (although there are exceptions). Here, in a part-flashback, we get to spend some quality time with Claire instead, who's bought a house by a lake for her and Parker to kick back in and has no intention of abandoning it now, even though someone is bumping off Parker's partners from his most recent score. Contrary to some Parker fans, I actually rather like Claire, so weirdly Part Three was for me the most enjoyable section of the book (alongside the scenes in Part Two where Parker does his best to appear normal and relaxed in the house, as opposed to the emotionless criminal automaton he really is). When unwelcome visitors turn up, Claire holds it together pretty well, and there's a brilliantly tense scene round the kitchen table.
(Incidentally, I think I spotted a mistake on Westlake's part. At one point, Claire recognises the name of one of Parker's cohorts... but I'm pretty sure Parker never mentioned that name to her.)
So, as I say, all in all, an odd one. There's a weird stylistic experiment at the start, no Stark Stooge to speak of (Claire certainly doesn't fit that description), and some rather bizarre but beguiling Parker-at-home business. All of which makes for an interesting read, but not one of the best in the series thus far. Still, next up in the Parkers it's Slayground, for many the high water mark of the entire run (although I've got a review of the Alan Grofield novel The Dame to knock out first, and I might read The Blackbird before – or even concurrently – with Slayground).