A Shroud for Jesso
Gold Medal, 1955
A part of Friday Forgotten Books
Jack Jesso is doing work for the syndicate alone and fast. Jesso does not realize that such arbitrariness could cost him his job, and even his life. After another "business trip" to Vegas, where Jesso works out the situation with his fists, his boss Gluck gives Jesso a chance to improve – to do a job for a mysterious German Kator. Because of his obstinacy Jesso alone finds for Kator his escaped associate, but violates several Kator’s requirements. So Jesso signed his own death ticket.
As in the two previous novels, the main character of Peter Rabe books is self-confident mid-level hood, tough and overestimating his own strength. This hood invariably goes against the rules and against the bosses, but such attempts to protest rarely lead to targeted results.
In A Shroud for Jesso Rabe wanders into the territory of a spy novel, and one can not say that it turns out well. It seems that Rabe does not quite know about matters he writes. There are several memorable scenes, but the plot is largely based on coincidences.
This novel is interesting in how it shows where Donald Westlake as a writer came from. A hood on the instructions of the boss looking for an another missing hood - Westlake later used this scheme in his several earlier novels, in The Cutie and Busy Body. The scenes in the house of Kator resemble similar scenes from 361. Jesso, of course, is not Richard Stark's Parker, but in the dialogues, in my opinion, you can hear the Parker notes.
Compared to the previous two Rabe novels this is less successful, but you still can find a lot of fun here.