January 19, 2010 by Reader's Connection
Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser detective series among others, is reported to have died at his home near Boston. He was an incredibly prolific author, and I’ll feature only the most recent book from each of his series. The appearance of new Parker novels every year is a phenomenon that will be missed.
Is there a more promising opening in contemporary crime fiction than Boston PI Spenser opening his office door to a new client? Instantly, we get Spenser’s clear-eyed view of the client, what his or her dress and stature have to say, and the rat-a-tat-tat of Spenser’s wise-guy answers to the client’s queries. And then we’re plunged into the client’s problems, which quickly intensify, growing more and more dangerous both for client and Spenser. In this thirty-seventh of a series of unflagging excellence, Spenser’s new client is a lawyer who seeks his advice on behalf of four of her women friends. They’re all married to wealthy older men. They’ve all been carrying on simultaneous affairs with one very seductive man. The turnoff? The lothario has started blackmailing them. Spenser is hired to coerce the lover, Gary Eisenhower, to stop. Eisenhower, however, is immune to physical threats, and none of the women is willing to confess to her husband, thus ending the blackmail. Adding to the confusion, Eisenhower has cast a much wider net of exploited women than the four complainants. A series of murders ensues. Is it the handiwork of Eisenhower or of an unhinged husband? Dr. Susan Silverman, Spenser’s longtime love, provides some intriguing psychological insights. Great plotting, clever dialogue, and Spenser’s mouthwatering cooking all make for a fantastic time. — Booklist
Bestseller Parker’s enjoyable ninth novel featuring Paradise, Mass., police chief Jesse Stone focuses on Stone’s deepening connection with PI Sunny Randall, the star of her own series. Both Jesse and Sunny are still recovering from failed relationships, and Parker does a nice job of integrating their separate therapy sessions (in Sunny’s case, with Susan Silverman, the significant other of Parker’s best-known detective, Spenser) with two criminal investigations. The parents of 18-year-old Cheryl DeMarco ask Sunny for help in getting Cheryl out of a religious cult, while Stone probes the gunshot murder of Petrov Ognowski, a mob soldier whose boss, Reggie Galen, is the next-door neighbor of another gangster. Neither case is particularly compelling on its own, but they effectively serve as plot devices for the main characters to understand more about themselves and each other. — Publishers Weekly
Parker’s second young adult novel is a prequel to the author’s famous Spenser series, now totaling three dozen adult crime thrillers. Here the hard-boiled Boston private detective recollects episodes from his childhood and early teen years, at the request of his lady friend, Susan. Readers learn that Spenser lost his mother at an early age and that he was raised by his father and two uncles, who modeled a strong male code of ethics while instructing the lad in the culinary and pugilistic arts. Most action occurs during Spenser’s fifteenth year. After bravely rescuing his classmate, Jeannie, from her violent, drunken father, he finds himself in a tricky romantic entanglement. Then, having defending a Mexican boy from bullies, he is caught up in a local rivalry between white and Mexican gangs. These conflicts call on Spenser for just those qualities that will make him such an appealing character as an adult: chivalry towards women, rejection of bigotry, independent judgment, and a readiness to use his fists in defense of those values For fans of the adult Spenser novels and television episodes, this book is a treasure trove of new stories about the formative years of a renowned fictional hero–although he still has no first name. Through Susan’s probing questions and Spenser’s responses, readers get a clear picture of how the boy evolved into the man. — VOYA
Parker’s gunslinging saddle pals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch return for their third adventure, in which the two lawmen-for-hire exchange snappy dialogue and hot lead with assorted owlhoots, deadbeats and unwashed baddies in south Texas. Here, Virgil and Everett rescue Allie French, Virgil’s former sweetie who ran off to become a prostitute, and head to Brimstone, where the two gunmen sign on as deputy sheriffs. Brimstone, however, doesn’t exactly provide a quiet respite for this trio. Virgil and Allie have a hard time getting over his hurt and her shame, a mysterious Indian is killing local folks and leaving taunting messages, and brutal saloon owner Pike and corrupt preacher Brother Percival are headed for a showdown. Virgil and Everett settle on a tricky solution that involves a talented tracker, a bribe, a double-cross, a noxious cloud of gun smoke and a pile of perforated bodies. The result is classic Parker–exciting, suspenseful, fast-moving and entertaining. — Publishers Weekly
At the start of Parker’s engaging sixth Sunny Randall novel the cop-turned-PI helps her father track down a Boston serial killer whose depredations begin again after a 20-year hiatus. The “spare change” killer executes victims with a single shot to the head, leaving three coins near the body. Sunny’s dad, Phil, headed the old task force formed to catch the killer, who wrote Phil taunting letters as the killings piled up. A new killing and a fresh letter to Phil have him and Sunny serving as consultant and assistant respectively to a new task force. Gutsy Sunny takes the lead in identifying the most likely suspect, and then in playing him dangerously to get hard evidence. Parker’s signature bantering byplay and some borrowings of characters from other series (notably Susan Silverman from the Spenser novels) will delight fans. The outcome is never in doubt, but Parker hits most of the right notes, and there’s still ingenuity to his cat-and-mouse. — Publishers Weekly