Sunday 21 October 2018



When Susan's ex-husband, Brad, appears after a decades-long absence, nearly broke and the object of a sexual-harassment suit, Spenser reluctantly agrees to help. As he investigates the circumstances surrounding the suit, he discovers that fund-raiser Brad is swimming in very deep water: mobsters, who were using his fund-raising campaigns to launder money, have discovered he was cooking the already cooked books and aren't at all pleased. The deeper Spenser digs, the more bodies he uncovers and the more culpable Brad appears to be.

My first Robert Parker - Spenser read in over twenty years, at a guess probably more like twenty five. I can recall pretty much devouring the first twenty-odd in this series, mostly during 1991 when I was just starting with my current employer and was slightly under-utilised. The early Spenser’s I could easily devour in a day and I did.  I enjoyed them. Spenser was tough, smart and didn’t take any crap from anyone. Never backed down, never felt intimidated and I liked his banter with black-sidekick Hawk. The case got solved, a few sherberts were shared and a few arses were kicked along the way.

And then I stopped enjoying them and the main reason why was Susan Silverman, Spenser’s partner, though they didn’t/don’t live together. She’s a psychologist or some such head doctor and she’s extremely irritating to me. When I picked up Sudden Mischief, very quickly I could recall why I stopped reading the series. Susan Bloody Silverman – Spenser’s blind spot. Though to be truthful, Spenser by the end of the book was starting to grate.

I get that all relationships are different and theirs has endured its share of troubles. She briefly left him for a fling with another man and they subsequently got back together. Here she’s got Spenser on a new case concerning her ex-husband who she doesn’t want to talk about and who might be in a spot of bother. On reflection I don’t know that my issue is with her, maybe more with Spenser placing her on a gold encrusted pedestal. I’m fairly sure if she axe-murdered someone he would find a way of justifying her behaviour - Susan was undoubtedly finding herself or some such twaddle. I love my wife, but that doesn’t mean I’m oblivious to her (minor) faults and that’s not to say she doesn’t annoy me at times and vice versa. Rant over.

Apart from the Susan factor, I liked it, though it probably won't appear on my year end best of list. Spenser asks around, gets few answers initially, commits a burglary, gets a few dirty pictures, asks some more questions, gets a warning or two, engages Hawk to watch his back, gets propositioned a couple of times, discovers a dead body, and uncovers what sort of man Susan's now disappeared ex-husband is really like. Brad returns, showdown time, job done.

A quick read, one thing about Robert Parker is he keeps you turning the pages. Nothing too cerebral or complex here - just a PI in love and on a case. I liked the Boston setting, I enjoyed reconnecting with Spenser and Hawk, though there's a bit too much Susan here for my liking.

4 from 5

I have a few other Parker books that I've randomly picked up in the past twenty years still on the pile. They include another Spenser book, a Sunny Randall book and a western featuring Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch.

Robert B. Parker published over 60 novels in his career. He died in 2010.

Read in October, 2018
Published - 1998
Page count - 304
Source - purchased copy
Format - paperback


  1. It's interesting, isn't it, Col, how a protagonist's relationship can change the feel of a series. Sometimes it's for the better, sometimes not. I agree with you in general that it's most realistic and engaging when partners see each other as humans (rather than that pedestal thing), faults and all. It makes the characters more realistic.

    1. I think I have a downer on the female love interest here Margot. A warts and all approach would work better for me I'm afraid.

  2. Col, I think the Spenser-Susan relationship, however unpalatable in this book at least, does add a touch of realism to the series. I certainly ought to read more by the author.

    1. Prashant, agreed insofar as a bit of personal story goes a long way in developing characters and fleshing them out. What I have an issue with is Spenser's lack of anger or vitriol at her when she is being unreasonable. Ergo she cheated on him, albeit a long time ago. He's forgiven her, I get that, but there's a total lack of jealousy, bitterness, hurt and any other normal human emotion that such a betrayal would produce in a partner or spouse unless they had an open relationship - which they don't. That's just annoying and not realistic to me. At least bitch about her to Hawk or kick the cat/dog or punch the wall when she's out of the building.

    2. So in other words, as a man, even if detached, he sounds too good to be true!

    3. Yes - he's a sensitive man, but too robotic to be true. There's two sides to love, good and bad even in stable relationships - ups and down - not 100 % ups. That's what rings false. Love your partner 100% - faults and all, not no faults!

  3. I've read a lot of the Spenser novels, but I confess they all became a bit of a blur after a while -- like episodes in a soap opera, I guess (says he, who's never watched a soap opera . . .). I do remember finding Susan a bit dull, although I'm not certain I was as disbelieving as you clearly are of his reaction to her temporarily ditching him. I always felt with Spenser that we were meant to understand there was a lot more emotion going on beneath the surface than his narration was wanting us to see.

    1. They do become a little bit repetitive after a while, but at the time I was new to the genre and was happy to drown myself in them. I think if you're having a meaningful discussion with your loved one, a heart to heart as such you could afford to vent a bit of anything and not just suppress all negativity you may feel towards that person.