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Monday, January 17, 2005

Parker Redux

I first read some of Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels several years ago. At the time, the detective seemed a shade too macho and inadvertently misogynistic. Happily, his later ones don't seem to have the same defect.

I've just finished three fairly recent titles: Paper Doll, Back Story, and Potshot. In Paper Doll, Spenser is hired by Loudon Tripp, an ostensibly wealthy Boton businessman, to find out who murdered his wife, Olivia Nelson. I understand that Faulkner is Spenser's favorite author and the scenes in South Carolina, where the trail leads him to find that Olivia Nelson is not whom she appears to be, indeed, the real Olivia is alive and well living in Africa, has Spencer seeking the help of the local black population to unravel the murder. In the end, he must analyze the ethical conundrums, after being harassed by local constabulary beholden to a prestigious senator, to bring closure. Susan and Hawk play less of a role in this entertaining story.

Back Story is the 30th novel in the series and we still don't know Spenser's first name. In it he agrees to search for the killers of the mother of a friend that happened thirty years earlier during a bank holdup by the Dread Scott Brigade organization, a seventies leftist group. Hawk plays a larger role in this novel. As is perhaps inevitable, many people want the case to remain unopened and Spenser has to dig up a lot of dirt.

For Hawk lovers, he plays a much more prominent part in this book as he does in Potshot, another fun read. Spenser is hired to find out why a local group of thugs in Dell have control of the town and why they killed Steve Buckman, the husband of his client. Spenser accumulates his own PC posse (a gay, a Latino, a black, and an American Indian) to bring the sociopaths to justice.

Perhaps it's my imagination, but the more recent books have more dietary trivia and recipes than the earlier books -- not that it detracts. It just makes me wonder.
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