The Rare Coin Score (1967)


Parker spent two weeks on the white sand beach at Biloxi, and on a white sandy bitch named Belle, but he was restless, and one day without thinking about it he checked out and sent a forwarding address to Handy McKay and move on to New Orleans.  He took a room in a downtown motel and connected with a girl folk singer the first night, but all she did was complain how her manager was lousing up her career, so three days later he ditched her and took up with a Bourbon Street stripper instead.

The Rare Coin Score involves exactly what the title indicates–the theft of rare coins. Of course, given that this is Parker, it isn’t just a coin dealer, but rather an entire coin collector’s convention that gets heisted.

The Rare Coin Score is notable for a number of reasons. Right from the start, the astute reader will realize that he is in for something a little different this time out–this is the first Parker novel not to start with “When…” There are also no extended flashbacks, a staple of the original Parker formula.

The book opens with a restless, unsatisfied Parker. He admits to himself that “when work gets to be its own reason for happening, that was trouble”–especially when you are in Parker’s line of work. Nevertheless, he goes back to work, and it wouldn’t be a Parker book if the job wasn’t trouble from start to finish.

This book also introduces Claire, Parker’s sort-of love interest (I can’t bring myself to use “love” in an unmodified sense when talking about Parker). She will return.

What is most interesting about this book is the way Stark actually begins to show that Parker is human and not machine, without contradicting the character he created in the previous eight books in the series. Through Parker’s thoughts and conversations with Claire, we begin to understand Parker the man better than ever before. It also answers a mystery that has been with us since the beginning of the series–how could this guy have ever been married? Stark is to be applauded for pulling this off, as it is most certainly a delicate balancing act, and his success makes The Rare Coin Score a highlight of the series.

Known printings and cover gallery here

To The Damsel, the Alan Grofield novel that precedes The Rare Coin Score chronologically

To The Handle, the previous book in the Parker series

To The Green Eagle Score, the next book in the Parker series