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A Return to Cerebral Spenser
on 7 December 2007
What you get from Robert B Parker, and his hero private eye Spenser, is almost unique in modern crime fiction. While so many others offer noir pastiche or pulp fiction played for laughs, Parker unashamedly walks the same rain soiled streets that Hammett and Chandler did before him, without apologies.
Hundred Dollar Baby marks Parker's 34th Spenser novel and for his regular readers, of which I am proud to call myself one, the characters are all too well known. Unlike most detectives Spenser holds not one but two sidekicks, each serving a valuable purpose in highlighting the juxtaposition of his own character. Firstly there is Hawk, the embodiment of Spenser's macho side, reliable, imposing and most of all moral and then there is Susan Silverman, Spenser's long time partner in love and personal psychoanalyst. While Hawk allows Spenser to tread familiar private eye territory, Susan provides an outlet for Spenser's intellectual and thoughtful side, providing Parker an opportunity to philosophise in a way seldom seen in the pulp detective novel.
For this case Parker resurrects a number of characters from earlier novels. April Kyle (Ceremony & Taming A Sea Horse) walks back into Spenser's life. Despite appearing, at least on the surface, to have turned her life around, she again needs Spenser's help. But in this tale of deceit and exploitation, April turns out to be just another one of many willing to lie to Spenser to conceal the truth of what quickly becomes one of Parker's most shocking novels.
In a return to classic Spenser, the usual suspects appear more as cameos as our favourite gumshoe finds his detecting skills tested to the max. The gun is relegated to the desk drawer as this adventure finds a more cerebral Spenser than we have seen recently.