Wednesday, January 23, 2013

2. The Sour Lemon Score by Richard Stark

[This review is intended for people who have already read the book.  It's not that there are a lot of explicit spoilers, but I come to some (probably facile) conclusions that are only possibly interesting if you have read the book.  As always, if you haven't read The Sour Lemon Score yet, I can only assume that it is because you are still working your way up to it.  So get cracking!]

I always used to think of The Sour Lemon Score as one of the more archetypical Parker books.  It has the classic structure of heist gone wrong and Parker dealing with the aftermath.  It has no links to any of the cross-book storylines.  Finally, it has The something something Score title.  On this, my third go-through of the series, I am more of the mind that there are no archetypical Parker books.  Each one has its own flavour and style that make it unique.  Upon this re-read, I have learned that while the beginning follows close to what might be considered the Parker formula, it quickly becomes a very different book.  The majority of the storyline is devoted to a double manhunt with a lot of investigation:  Parker trying to find the dude who betrayed the heist while that dude hunts Parker down to eliminate the last betrayee.

Things get complicated, of course and Parker interacts with a wide range of individuals that keep the book interesting.  For me, I find The Sour Lemon Score a bit dissatisfying. It's not that it isn't a good book.  It has the usual rich and fun writing ("Uhl was still as docile as a lobotomized monk"), a couple of neat dips into the straight end of the pool (it's always interesting when Parker enters into the non-criminal world) and a surprisingly deep look into the character of Parker himself and his ethical limits.  It's just that it starts off with such a bang with the heist and then the awesome action of the betrayal (Parker jumping out of the barn window one bullet ahead of his life is just so excellent) that I get all revved up.  I'm so fucking angry with George Uhl and I want Parker to find him and punish him.  The rest of the book holds that tension but adds complexity to it so that it becomes harder and harder to release it.  By the end, when Parker makes the moral choice that he does, you realize that you aren't going to get that simple satisfaction and it's a bit of a letdown.

Thinking about it, I realize that the book could be read as Parker's failure.  He ends up with no cash in a lot of them, but somehow it feels like he tries really hard and is constantly questioning himself as he is doing so.  He ends up with nothing and in a position where he has to make what is perhaps the less efficient moral decision.  It's kind of depressing.  Yet it still adheres to Parker's realism and cold objectivity regarding life and himself.  He knows it as much as the reader does.

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