Comeback (1997)


When the angel opened the door, Parker stepped first past the threshold into the darkness of the cinder block corridor beneath the stage. A hymn filtered discordantly through the rough walls; thousands of voices, raggedly together. The angel said, “I’m not sure about this…”

The inside man, Tom Carmody, is an employee of TV preacher William Archibald. Overcome with guilt over being part of a scam, he works up a heist with parolee George Liss–steal the gate receipts of one of Archibald’s rallies (twenty-thousand people at $20 a pop, cash on the barrelhead). Carmody will use his part of the split for its originally promised purpose of helping the unfortunate.

Liss brings in Parker, as well as Ed Mackey and Mackey’s better half Brenda. The job goes down with only the slightest of hitches. But then Liss gets greedy, some amateurs step in, a sadistic cop gets involved, and the situation just gets crazier and crazier and crazier.

Slayground is the one that takes place in an amusement park, but Comeback is the Parker novel most like a carnival ride. Stark obviously had a great deal of fun writing his first Parker novel after a twenty-three year hiatus, and he throws everything but the kitchen sink into a briskly paced and highly entertaining book.

The thing about it is, he’s having so much fun that Comeback doesn’t really feel like a Parker novel. Comeback is almost lighthearted in its story and style, moreso by far than any others in the series. Parker is still Parker for the most part (he’s a bit more verbose than usual), but the universe around him isn’t so much dark as it is absurd.

If the reader can accept this, he’ll likely find Comeback to be a series highlight. If he can’t, he need not fear–Stark would get back into his old groove soon enough.