Looking for Rachel Wallace – Robert B. Parker

Book six of the Spenser series, this one sees our hero hired as a bodyguard for Rachel Wallace, the feminist radical author of an about to be published book. As she starts her promotional tour, there are threats made against her, and the publishers recommend Spenser as the man to keep her safe. Unfortunately, no matter how good Spenser is at his job, he is hopeless at holding back his fast talking smart alec personality, and he and Wallace are soon at loggerheads. Eventually, and unsurprisingly, Spenser is fired, even though it seems plain that there is some real danger. Then Wallace is kidnapped…

Despite the circumstances, Spenser sees it as his duty to rescue the lady. Cue action and adventure as he goes looking for Rachel Wallace.

Once again we see more of Spenser’s character – the strengths and weaknesses – alongside the development of the plot. Clearly it is his attitude towards women – and the other way round – that feature here, and there are some insightful and interesting exchanges and observations. You do not need to agree with Spenser’s viewpoint to enjoy the tale.

The end is a bit predictable, but standard for Spenser books; the plot is neither complex nor demanding, but arguably is therefore that much more believable.

Not bad at all.

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Promised Land – Robert B. Parker

promised-land

This is the fourth of the author’s Spenser series (I told you I was on a roll) and, thankfully, has bugger all to do with Israel, Jews, or anything of a Middle eastern nature. Instead, we have our not so politically correct detective recruited to find Harvey Shepard’s runaway wife. Spenser goes looking, and from that point on the story heats up nicely.

I suspect there was some marriage conflict episode going on in the author’s life (or circle of friends) at some point, because his observations on the relationships here are extensive and informed, if occasionally a tad harsh. Nevertheless, there’s more to the story than marriage trouble, of course, and it is the hidden danger that puts Spenser firmly in danger.

This was the best of the Spenser books so far, with some good action scenes, as well as the usual trademark Spenser dialog.

This is enjoyable time travel style entertainment, taking you back to the 1970s, and reminding you things weren’t all that great.

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Mortal Stakes – Robert B. Parker

mortal-stakes

This is the third of the author’s Spenser series (can you tell I am on a roll?) and is a dark tale of sex and marriage and baseball and gangsters. Our intrepid detective is recruited to go undercover and try and find out if the star pitcher of the Boston Red Sox baseball team is taking bribes to throw games. Of course, being Spenser, it doesn’t turn out to be a straightforward assignment, and soon the action and the danger are fast rising.

Spenser navigates the rocky waters assuredly – as you would expect – and the whole thing is reasonably well wrapped up, and delivered to the reader with some considerable skill. That having been said, there were some patches of the writing that didn’t quite maintain the flow, but on the whole this rattled along and allowed Spenser the character to develop just a bit more. That’s probably a good thing because, apart from the occasional love interest, the other characters are not particularly deep. Never mind; the story’s the thing, and this is a decent enough story, and a decent enough read.

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God Save the Child – Robert B. Parker

gd-save-the-child

Number two in the author’s Spenser series, and the quirky private detective continues his adventures in much the same way: he pokes the hornet’s test of whatever trouble he is asked to sort out, then ducks, dives, and hangs on until the time is right to step in and save the day.

Spenser is an irascible throwback to the non politically correct 1970’s, but he is also strangely charming, appealing, intelligent, and funny. The bonus for the author is that he doesn’t need to invest much in the plot, because Spenser can (mostly) carry the reader along, and that is what happens here.

The story, such as it is, involves a missing fourteen year old kid that appears to have run away. But his parents are not so convinced, and Spenser is recruited to get to the truth. He does, simultaneously causing a bit of aggravation.

Spenser also observes and reflects on some of the social and cultural issues involved in this plot, such as parenting and moral standards. This time around I felt the author had pitched things about right, so that the sermon delivered from the pages was neither too long, nor too heavy.

This is light, but reasonably crafted entertainment that despite its flaws, is engrossing and satisfying.

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The Godwulf Manuscript – Robert B. Parker

goodwulf

This is the first in the late author’s highly successful Spenser series, featuring a Boston private detective (former policeman) of that name, making his way in the world. It’s largely a book of its time (the 1970s) with certain cultural signposts: there is no political correctness, and sensitivity towards those of a different outlook is somewhat lacking, at least on the surface. Spenser, a somewhat brash, bolshy, arrogant, and abusive individual, is hired by a local university to recover the Godwulf manuscript, a stolen medieval book of some value. The thief is demanding $100,000 be donated to a free school.

Spenser is on the case, pointed in the direction of a student group called SCACE (Student Committee Against Capitalist Exploitation). His first meeting with the secretary of that group and her boyfriend does not end well. From that point on, the violence and danger escalates, and Spenser has hands more than full.

This book has no literary pretensions. It struck me as being highly formulaic in its structure: Spenser gets to the scene, let’s describe the scene at length, describe the people, start the dialogue, then continue with action. From this reader’s perspective, the descriptions are OK (sometimes better than that) but too often are overdone. In other words, there’s too much description for what is necessary to set the scene and the atmosphere. (Often, but not always.) But the dialogue and Spenser’s internal revelations and thought processes redeem the book and make it worth reading as entertainment. The dialogue is sharp, often childish, but very much in the spirit of the times and his character. Spenser’s view of the world is often amusing, thus making for a more sympathetic view of this rough diamond.

The plot is simple, direct, and easy to follow. There are no complex turns here, and any twists are minor and within reason.

It’s easy, light reading, with enough of an edge and tension to make it a page turner. In short, pure escapist fun.

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