“The Seventh” by Richard Stark (a pseudonym of Donald Westlake) was released in 1966 as the seventh book in the Parker series. The book was re-released in 1968 as “The Split” - with far superior cover art - coinciding with the movie adaptation starring Jim Brown in the Parker role.
As the novel opens, Parker is laying low in a girl’s home with the cash proceeds from a recent seven-man heist. He steps out for a few minutes to run an errand and upon his return, finds his hostess/sex partner murdered with a ceremonial sword and the heist proceeds missing. Did someone come to steal the loot and decide to kill the girl? Or did someone come to kill the girl and hit the jackpot by lucking into $134,000 in heist proceeds? This is the novel’s central mystery for Parker to solve.
Like many Parker novels, “The Seventh” is told in a manner that is unstuck in time. The reader gets to see selected scenes multiple times from the perspectives of various characters. It’s a narrative stunt that works because Westlake could write his ass off.
The flashback to the heist makes for awesome reading. The seven-man crew successfully robs the gate receipts from a stadium on college football Saturday. The plan was for Parker to hold the dough until the heat subsides and then each member of the crew would get their seventh. The theft of the money from Parker’s hideout throws a monkey-wrench in that plan.
Parker plays detective as he tries to solve the murder of his temporary girlfriend and recover the money with the assistance of his irritated crew. Meanwhile, the local police are also trying to solve both the homicide and the robbery of the stadium cash room. It’s a legitimate whodunnit executed perfectly by Westlake with the best scene being Parker’s brazen and audacious handling of the local cops.
There’s plenty of blood and gunplay in this one, and the violent ending set piece is among the best in the series. Westlake was at the top of his game with “The Seventh” and fans of the series should consider it a “must-read.” Highly recommended.
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