The Sour Lemon Score (1969)

Fawcett Gold Medal (1969)

Parker put the revolver away and looked out the windshield. The bank was half a block away along the sunny street. Andrews hadn’t come out yet.

The Sour Lemon Score opens with a bank heist that for once goes off without a hitch. Parker and his three partners, Benny Weiss, Phil Andrews, and George Uhl, march in and out and make their escape with ease. However, as soon as they take a look at the rather disappointing take, Uhl (who will return) plugs Weiss and Andrews, and Parker barely escapes with his life.

Not pleased by this turn of events, Parker treks up and down the eastern seaboard, looking for Uhl and his money, but Uhl keeps managing to stay one step ahead of him. And a thug named Matt Rosenstein has gotten wind that there’s a stash of money out there, and Rosenstein makes Parker look like a gentleman.

The Sour Lemon Score has the feel of a transitional book, and it is perhaps no surprise that its the last in the series with “score” in the title. If you read my comments on The Black Ice Score, you know that I thought Claire was beginning to hurt the series, and that the character of Parker had gone through some unwelcome changes as well. Stark apparently thought so, too, because the old Parker is definitely back. Claire does not appear in person, although she does wire Parker money when he needs it.

Stark has not, however, entirely reverted to the original Parker formula. Unlike most of the series, Lemon begins with the heist in progress and the cross mere pages later. While we do spend a fair amount of time following parties other than Parker, it is also not a return to the formula where Parker bursts in on the antagonist after several chapters, followed by scenes showing how Parker managed to get to that point. Instead, Parker’s and Uhl’s actions make other parties interested in the stolen cash, and complications ensue from this.

It’s nice to see the old Parker back after the disappointing Black Ice Score. It is also nice to see the brightness that had started to creep into the Parker universe disappear completely–here we return to a universe where all people will hurt and betray anyone to get what they want. The Sour Lemon Score may not quite make the Parker elite, but it’s rock solid.

The movie City of Industry bears several resemblances to The Sour Lemon Score.

Known printings and cover gallery here

To The Black Ice Score, the previous book in the Parker series.

To Deadly Edge, the next book in the Parker series.