The Rare Coin Score

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“The Rare Coin Score” is the ninth Parker novel by Richard Stark (aka Westlake). I am probably going to sound like a broken record in saying that, like all the books in the Parker series, it is a terrific, fast-moving crime thriller. Here, the caper is the robbery of a coin dealers convention from a hotel ballroom. There could be as much as $2 million worth of rare coins there, although it is not like cold hard cash (or is it?) and it has to go through a fence who knows how to handle such material (or perhaps one of the coin dealers at the convention). The coins have to be handled gently because, if you throw them all in a bag, they will get scratched and marred and lose quite a bit of their value. The coins are also quite heavy, unlike paper money. Of course, being a Parker novel, there are double-crosses and problems to contend with such that even the Pinkertons guarding the coins at night are the least of the crew’s headaches.

What stands out about this caper is the crew that is organized to do it, a crew that needs a well-organized, professional leader – Parker. One member of this crew becomes a recurring character through many of the succeeding Parker novels (Claire). If you have read any of the later Parker books, you know Claire and you know that Parker has a long- term relationship with her, but the Claire you meet in this book (before everything that happens here) is unlike the Claire you meet in succeeding books. This is a tough-nosed, hard-edged bombshell who manipulates the soft captive coin dealer (Billy) involved in the caper like any good femme fatale would.

This story is smoothly written and just flows off the pages. It is filled with action and intrigue. Novels such as this one thoroughly cemented Westlake’s place as a top-notch crime fiction writer even though he published it under his alter ego, Richard Stark.

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