The Mourner

Fiction PB: THE MOURNER by Richard Stark(Donald Westlake). 1963. Permabook M4298 | eBay

“The Mourner” is the fourth in the 24-strong Parker series. Parker is Donald Westlake’s creation although he published it under the pseudonym, Richard Stark. Briefly, Parker is a thief, a burglary, a
robber, a heister. Parker works with a few other thieves and is often at odds with the Outfit or the Syndicate. He is a tough-nosed, unyielding individual. These Parker stories are solid action from cover to cover and are all highly recommended.

This book is Westlake’s nod to the Maltese Falcon in too many ways to be ignored. One of the things he is tasked with stealing is a fourteenth-century statute, the Mourner, and there are many parties
after it, including an ex-spy from a small Communist nation somewhere near the Carpathian mountains. Ex-spy, August Menlo, is often described as a fat man, just like Gutman in the Maltese Falcon. Westlake does a great job of developing Menlo, who is just the most unusual character as he misunderstands a Southern small-town speed trap and reacts very badly to the stop, perhaps because he has $100,000 of stolen money in his car.

Another character fairly well-developed is the voluptuous Bett Harrow, who is holding onto a gun Parker had used in a killing and, with her father, wants Parker to steal the statue. Bett is always lounging around in a hotel room and has moves like a burlesque dancer. Parker isn’t interested in her because, when he is on a job, he is celibate and focused on only one thing. When the job is done, well, that’s something else entirely. Bett is your no-holds-barred femme fatale and she is willing to go off with whoever appears to be the strongest.

In this novel, Parker is attacked, knifed, shot, and left for dead. Well, that doesn’t distinguish it from other Parker novels, but he is quite roughed up here. With the thievery, the constant battles with the Outfit guys, the spy vs. spy capers involving the statute and other things, and the machinations involving Bett’s constantly shifting loyalties, it is a solid, action-packed Parker outing.

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