The Black Ice Score (1968)


Parker walked into his hotel room, and there was a guy in there going through his suitcase laid out on his bed. He looked over when Parker came in and calmly said, “That’ll be all right.” He had some kind of accent.

Parker is contracted by representatives of the tiny African nation of Dhaba to help them steal back their national wealth, which has been stolen by the president, Colonel Lubudi. Parker’s role is strictly as a consultant until another faction kidnaps Claire and gets him personally involved in deciding who will control the diamonds and therefore the power of an entire country.

The Black Ice Score is a continuation of Stark’s effort to take the series in different directions begun in The Rare Coin Score. While this was highly successful in The Rare Coin Score and somewhat successful in The Green Eagle Score, it is not nearly as successful here. While Rare Coin managed to make Parker more human while staying consistent with the character developed in the previous novel, Black Ice makes unwelcome changes to the character. Westlake believes that The Jugger was his greatest failure because Parker didn’t act like himself. I disagree, and think this one may be it.

The previous novels in the series presented an amoral world where everyone was looking out only for his own personal interests. In this novel, Parker seems to be an instrument of a good cause, even if it is largely for his own personal gain: despite hinting that Major Indindu’s faction, who Parker is working for, may be no different than the other factions attempting to gain leadership of Dhaba, the reader gets a sense that out of the three options available, this is the best choice. In some ways, this seems a continuation of the lightening of the Parker universe that began in the Grofield spinoff novel The Damsel, which addressed similar themes.

Parker himself has gone through some changes as well. Most significantly, he not only asks the Dhabans for help, something it is hard to imagine him doing in earlier novels, but he also spends an entire chapter explaining the situation to them. You read me right–Parker spends an entire chapter speaking. Parker speaking. An entire chapter. Yikes.

I’m also starting to lose interest in Claire, who I had liked up until now. I don’t really like the idea of Parker spending his time chasing after women in danger.

I’m sure this book would be a decent time-killer for those of us not obsessed, but The Black Ice Score is probably my least favorite in the series.

Trivia: Parker appears to have quit smoking.

  • A detailed synopsis of The Black Ice Score is here. Warning: Spoilers galore!
  • Known printings and cover gallery here
  • To The Dame, the Alan Grofield novel which precedes The Black Ice Score chronologically
  • To The Green Eagle Score, the previous book in the Parker series
  • To The Sour Lemon Score, the next book in the Parker series