Deadly Edge (1971)


Up here, the music was just a throbbing under the feet, a distant pulse.  Down below, down through the roof, through and beneath the offices, down in the amphitheater shaped like a soup bowl, the crowd was roaring and pounding and yelling down at the four musicians in the bottom of the bowl. The musicians scooped up the roars coming in at them, pushed them through electric guitars and amplifiers, and sent back howls of sound that dwarfed the noise of the crowd, till the roaring was like a blast of heat on the face. But up here it was no more than a continuing throb in the gravelly surface of the roof.

Parker and a crew of three others pull off a near-flawless theft of gate receipts for a cash-only rock concert. However, when they arrive at the prearranged hiding spot to wait out the heat, they discover the body of a fifth man who was originally going to participate in the robbery and backed out at the last minute.

Baffled but not knowing what else to do, the crew splits the take and goes its separate ways. Parker goes to Claire, who has recently bought a house in hopes of restoring some semblance of normalcy to her life. However, the other members of the crew start turning up dead, and as Parker leaves Claire to figure out what is going on, it turns out that the unknown killers may be able to figure out where Claire lives despite all the precautions she and Parker have taken…

Deadly Edge continues the return to the dark Parker universe that Stark began in The Sour Lemon Score.  In fact, Stark seems determined to make it darker than it was originally–this is the second book in a row to feature a murderous psychopath.

The novel does suffer from being a bit too thin–it sometimes feels like its a short story stretched into novel length. Fortunately, the slow stretched parts are in the first half, which takes its time setting up what follows (including one plot thread involving organized crime that seems to have been forgotten halfway through). Deadly Edge then delivers on that setup with a pulse-pounding second half featuring two scenes (Claire avoiding a rape and a particularly intense dinner) that are series highlights. Perhaps not a classic, but a good read nonetheless.

Trivia: This was the first Parker novel to appear in hardcover.

(The Parker homage The Limey references Deadly Edge–the Parker-like character has just been released after being imprisoned for the crime of robbing a concert.)

Known printings and cover gallery here

To The Sour Lemon Score, the previous book in the Parker series

To The Blackbird, the Alan Grofield novel that follows Deadly Edge chronologically

To Slayground, the next book in the Parker series