Following in the footsteps of fellow-thief Bernie Rhodenbarr, Stark's hero Parker returns from a 20-year retirement in this taut caper, which begins with a routine $400,000 heist from the Reverend William Archibald's Christian Crusade (the inside man, Tom Carmody, is an angel who's gotten religion and thinks money is the root of the Rev.'s evil). The sequel would be routine, too, if Carmody hadn't told his girlfriend about the heist, and if the girlfriend hadn't told her none-too-bright kid brother, and if the brother hadn't told a couple of his lowlife friends, and if one of the original thieves hadn't decided he didn't want to split the take with the others, and if the nominal good guys--Archibald's semper fi security chief Dwayne Thorsen and sadistic local police detective Lew Calavecci--weren't a pair of borderline psychopaths. The high points are Parker's taking a bribe to look for the money he's stolen himself, and his trying to put out a fire by throwing a bullet-ridden body on it. But the real thrill is seeing Parker back in action again in a world where all the key players are so completely on the same wavelength that they know exactly what everybody else will do, and where each ruse and double-cross is good only till nightfall. If you're new to Stark's work, think of all the comic Dortmunder capers he's written under his real name--Donald E. Westlake--but with as baleful an absence of humor as in The Ax (p. 753).