The Blackbird is the third of four Donald E. Westlake aka Richard Stark where heist driver and full-time actor Alan Grofield appears independently. The events in The Blackbird follow those in The Damsel and The Dame as well as the Parker thriller The Handle. You do not have to have read the earlier mysteries to enjoy what turns out to be a comic spy caper.

The Blackbird opens with Alan Grofield in Quebec City on a heist with Parker. Their car crashes and Alan Grofield is arrested. While in hospital, he is visited by agents from a special and unspecified branch of the U.S. government. If Grofield accepts to do a bit of spying at Chateau Frontenac where the leaders of seven small countries are meeting he will be given his freedom. Grofield is perfect for the job as he knows General Pozos from The Damsel and a man named Marba from his adventures in The Dame.

Richard Stark and Donald E. Westlake have a lot of fun with the spy novel tropes in The Blackbird. Grofield tries to evade his handlers but fails. People keep showing up in his room unannounced. Everybody knows more than he does and he is the one who is supposed to get information. Grofield gets kidnapped a couple of times or so by various parties. He escapes three or four times for good measure.

Stark uses the late sixties period and events in Quebec politics to his advantage here by tossing in a Quebecois independence group for local colour. Unfortunately, his geographical references are all over the map as Richard Stark puts the Laurentian mountains just outside Quebec City when in reality they are at least three hours away by car. Also Roberval is twice as far from Quebec City as he puts it. It doesn’t matter but for a local reader it is annoying.

The reason for the meeting in Quebec City is revealed and is it standard spy thriller fodder. Its banality does not get in the way of a good story.

The Blackbird is followed by what is the best and last of the Alan Grofield mystery novels: Lemons Never Lie. This is where Richard Stark aka Donald E. Westlake have fun seeing how far they can go cranking up the suspense and believability.

The Blackbird
Richard Stark
Donald E. Westlake
An Alan Grofield mystery
Originally published 1969
University of Chicago Press 2012

Related posts

  • The Damsel by Richard Stark aka Donald E. Westlake is the first of four mystery novels with Alan Grofield as the main character. The others are The Score, The Dame, and Lemons Never Lie. Plot wise, this thriller follows the 8th Parker mystery The Handle aka Run Lethal. Alan Grofield…
    Tags: damsel, richard, stark, donald, westlake, alan, grofield, mystery, fun, thriller
  • The Dame is the second of four Alan Grofield mystery novels by Richard Stark aka Donald E. Westlake. The Dame follows The Damsel and the eighth Parker novel The Handle. The Dame is a fun, light read where Westlake’s humor is almost as present as it is in the Dortmunder…
    Tags: grofield, dame, richard, stark, alan, mystery, westlake, damsel, novel, fun
  • The Handle is the eighth Parker thriller by Richard Stark aka Donald E. Westlake. If you are looking for a fun and easy to read adventure novel, The Handle is great. Richard Stark’s Parker sets up a heist on an island casino off Galveston. He gets a crew together, including…
    Tags: richard, parker, stark, novel, alan, heist, westlake, aka, donald, damsel
  • The Hot Rock by Donald E. Westlake aka Richard Stark is the first of fourteen Dortmunder mystery novels. Like all others in the series, The Hot Rock has Dortmunder pulling a heist where everything goes comically wrong. Not to spoil anything but this heist involves a hypnotist, a train, a…
    Tags: dortmunder, donald, westlake, heist, mystery, thriller, aka, richard, stark, novel
  • Lemons Never Lie by Richard Stark aka Donald E. Westlake is the fourth of four mystery novel featuring Allen Grofield. It is a solid addition to the Hard Case Crime imprimatur. It is a complex but not convoluted thriller featuring a story like you have never read before. This is…
    Tags: richard, stark, donald, westlake, grofield, three, novel, mystery, aka, thriller

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *