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on 29 March 2001
Robert B. Parker's latest Spenser thriller sees him investigating the shootings of several horses in Georgia. As usual, he encounters many unpleasant characters with secrets to hide and corruption is never far away.
As always Hugger Mugger is well written with a tight plot which is an entertaining read. It doesn't really offer anything new to the Spenser series though and Hawk is noticeably absent. It's good but it lacks the sparkle that made books like 'Small Vices' and 'Night Passage' so good.
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Spenser is hired to find out who is shooting at horses at the thoroughbred stables of Walter Clive, The Three Fillies (named for his three daughters). He's not excited about the assignment, but he needs the money. Traveling to rural Georgia, he meets Hugger Mugger (a 2 year old who is potentially the next Secretariat) and the screwiest bunch of people in the South since Faulkner stopped writing about strange Southern families. Spenser makes no progress, someone is killed, and Spenser is fired.
In the next scene he is back in Boston taking a case to get rid of a nanny's stalker for the mother of the child the nanny cares for. The real problem is much different than what it seems and Spenser helps all concerned. This story may seem like a mere interlude but it is important as a foreshadowing for understanding the primary story line . . . so pay attention!
Then Spenser has a new client who hires him to solve the human murder. Now the story gets into normal Spenser mode with lots of asking questions, breaking heads, and getting help from friends. The unraveling of the story reveals many interesting plot complications that show a lot about the character of the people involved. You'll love this part of the story!
Since Robert Parker has written so many Spenser novels, and most people have read quite a lot of them, this book requires a more complicated rating system than most to be helpful to the experienced Spenser reader. While even a bad Spenser novel (if such a thing were to ever occur) would still get a high overall rating, the books require comparisons to each other so you will be prepared for the experience ahead.
First, the best part of this book is the plot. Parker obviously went to a lot of trouble to create a plot that meant that people were the opposite of what they seemed like on the surface. And the plot works. But let me warn you, the book starts off very slowly. The first 111 pages are really just the introduction to the novel. You may find it a little boring in that section. I know I did. Think of it as character development, because that it what it is for (for the characters in the book, and for patience as an aspect of your character).
Second, Parker has written some truly delicious lines and just dropped them in here and there to remind you what a fabulous writer he can be. These are usually descriptions, and seem to capture everything in a moment. The ones in this book are about as good as his quips get.
Third, Parker likes irony. This book is more full of irony than perhaps any other in the series. If you hate irony, you won't like this book very much. He even has the characters making ironical hints about irony, just in case you miss the point. I love irony, and therefore I thought this was one of his best books overall.
Fourth, there is no Hawk. For many, that will mean the book can only be so good. Tedy Sapp, the gay ex-cop turned bar bouncer, plays that role. I thought this worked well, but for those who live for Hawk it isn't quite the same.
Fifth, Susan does much more than usual. She's out doing a little detecting with Spenser in some of my favorite haunts in San Francisco. The Susan role is well above average for her.
Sixth, this book also seems to be a satire on the Dick Francis books. Spenser makes fun of all the things that Dick Francis would make frightening or important. I thought it was wickedly funny . . . and I am a devoted Dick Francis fan.
Seventh, Spenser as Superman is built up more than usual. Parker obviously wants you to think about what it would be like to live without fear. I think he got the point across well.
Eighth, Parker has done an unusually good job of using comments by characters to foreshadow future events, like the fools do in Shakespeare. This added a wonderful depth for developing the plot around the concept that character flaws are destiny. This was a terrific stylistic addition.
Ninth, on the downside, Parker continues his overuse of food references as context. In this one, you read more about Coca-Cola and doughnuts than you want to. Please, Robert Parker, we get it. Just do each one once or twice per book! On the other hand, he used more restraint and variety in describing feeding carrots to horses and that worked very well.
Should you miss this book if you are a Spenser fan? Are you kidding? Not a chance!
After you have finished reading the book, think about places in your life where other people may not be as they seem. How can you find out what they are really like? Then, if you dare, think about something you are afraid to do that you should do, and ask yourself what you would do if you were Spenser. Then imagine you are Spenser and give it a shot. You may make some interesting progress as a result. You could become irresistible.
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on 29 May 2015
This book possesses one of the most original plots, and certainly most original structure, of any of this world famous series. Our man Spenser is hired by the very wealthy Clive Family to protect the interest of a horse (of all things) - admittedly, a horse bound for superstardom and mega wealth for its owners - after failed assassination attempts at other horses on the same property brought the existence of a lunatic to the attention of everyone in town. This book will stand out, too, because for once, it is not set in Beautiful, Downtown Boston. Spenser heads south to Georgia, without the majority of his friends and associates. Hawk is in France on personal business, Susan is busy educating and analysing the lucky few back home who come across her. Captain Quirk is busy running the Boston Police Force and Vinnie and his associates are all busy being busy.

So our Spenser is forced to make new friends. And he does, as well as one or two (short term) enemies. They are a very tight knit group, The Clives. Also *very, very* powerful. So powerful, in fact, that their domination of the running of the town almost ruins the story. In fact, it does, up to a point. Spenser is closed out of the investigation by a sudden plot twist as you approach the halfway mark, and before you know it, he is back with the woman he belongs to, in the town where he belongs, solving a minor but potentially ugly case of stalking. Solve this, he does, but before the reader can say ’Spenser Is Cool’ he is hired by a different member of the Clive family to get back down to Georgia to finish what he started.

And this is where the book *really* gets interesting.

As i have already said, HUGGER MUGGER is unique for several reasons. But it remains a top notch mystery, written by one of the all time great crafters of the genre. Even without the added attraction of Hawk’s presence in the story, we still have (somewhat limited) input from Susan, and as we know, she is able to help both Spenser (and the reader) to see just about everything in a whole different light.

This may not be the best book Mr Parker ever wrote but, at it’s peak, it is just as enjoyable, fulfilling and satisfying as any other volume in the series I can think of. And that in itself is its own reward.

Four stars for a very solid and hugely enjoyable read.

BFN Greggorio!
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on 9 April 2015
Spenser is once again on the case, demonstrating that Parker's greatest strengths as a writer are his quirky characters and exceptional dialog. The Clive family owns a horse stable and someone is shooting their horses, so they request Spenser's services. While three horses have been shot, only one was fatal and that was not one of the valuable racers. The others seem to have been done in a way to deliberately avoid killing the animals. Their prize horse is called Hugger Mugger, hence the title of the book.
As is always the case with a Spenser story, nothing is as it first appears. The Clive family is dysfunctional and we know that someone in the family is guilty, but they are all so unusual that there are reasons to suspect them all. As usual, Spenser initially gets nowhere, but when Walter Clive, the patriarch of the family and the one who hired Spenser is killed, the plot thickens. After Walter's death,, Spenser is removed from the case, but then one of the other members, who is antagonistic to those who fired him, hires him back.
This is the story where Spenser meets Tedy Sapp, who aids Spenser when he is needed. Hawk is only briefly mentioned, so Tedy is the one who covers Spenser's back when the need arises. The villain in this story is very weak, a fact that even Parker acknowledges in the dialog between Spenser and Sapp as they prepare for the final physical confrontation. Of course, Spenser wins in the end, and he has as many trysts as possible with Susan Silverman. Some of the best dialog is between Spenser and the local deputy sheriff, an honest cop who wants the case to be solved, but needs Spenser's help to avoid stepping on the wrong political toes. Their conversations are wry, brief, ironical and very funny. However, I did miss Hawk.
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Spenser is hired to find out who is shooting at horses at the thoroughbred stables of Walter Clive, The Three Fillies (named for his three daughters). He's not excited about the assignment, but he needs the money. Traveling to rural Georgia, he meets Hugger Mugger (a 2 year old who is potentially the next Secretariat) and the screwiest bunch of people in the South since Faulkner stopped writing about strange Southern families. Spenser makes no progress, someone is killed, and Spenser is fired.
In the next scene he is back in Boston taking a case to get rid of a nanny's stalker for the mother of the child the nanny cares for. The real problem is much different than what it seems and Spenser helps all concerned. This story may seem like a mere interlude but it is important as a foreshadowing for understanding the primary story line . . . so pay attention!
Then Spenser has a new client who hires him to solve the human murder. Now the story gets into normal Spenser mode with lots of asking questions, breaking heads, and getting help from friends. The unraveling of the story reveals many interesting plot complications that show a lot about the character of the people involved. You'll love this part of the story!
Since Robert Parker has written so many Spenser novels, and most people have read quite a lot of them, this book requires a more complicated rating system than most to be helpful to the experienced Spenser reader. While even a bad Spenser novel (if such a thing were to ever occur) would still get a high overall rating, the books require comparisons to each other so you will be prepared for the experience ahead.
First, the best part of this book is the plot. Parker obviously went to a lot of trouble to create a plot that meant that people were the opposite of what they seemed like on the surface. And the plot works. But let me warn you, the book starts off very slowly. The first 111 pages are really just the introduction to the novel. You may find it a little boring in that section. I know I did. Think of it as character development, because that it what it is for (for the characters in the book, and for patience as an aspect of your character).
Second, Parker has written some truly delicious lines and just dropped them in here and there to remind you what a fabulous writer he can be. These are usually descriptions, and seem to capture everything in a moment. The ones in this book are about as good as his quips get.
Third, Parker likes irony. This book is more full of irony than perhaps any other in the series. If you hate irony, you won't like this book very much. He even has the characters making ironical hints about irony, just in case you miss the point. I love irony, and therefore I thought this was one of his best books overall.
Fourth, there is no Hawk. For many, that will mean the book can only be so good. Tedy Sapp, the gay ex-cop turned bar bouncer, plays that role. I thought this worked well, but for those who live for Hawk it isn't quite the same.
Fifth, Susan does much more than usual. She's out doing a little detecting with Spenser in some of my favorite haunts in San Francisco. The Susan role is well above average for her.
Sixth, this book also seems to be a satire on the Dick Francis books. Spenser makes fun of all the things that Dick Francis would make frightening or important. I thought it was wickedly funny . . . and I am a devoted Dick Francis fan.
Seventh, Spenser as Superman is built up more than usual. Parker obviously wants you to think about what it would be like to live without fear. I think he got the point across well.
Eighth, Parker has done an unusually good job of using comments by characters to foreshadow future events, like the fools do in Shakespeare. This added a wonderful depth for developing the plot around the concept that character flaws are destiny. This was a terrific stylistic addition.
Ninth, on the downside, Parker continues his overuse of food references as context. In this one, you read more about Coca-Cola and doughnuts than you want to. Please, Robert Parker, we get it. Just do each one once or twice per book! On the other hand, he used more restraint and variety in describing feeding carrots to horses and that worked very well.
Should you miss this book if you are a Spenser fan? Are you kidding? Not a chance!
After you have finished reading the book, think about places in your life where other people may not be as they seem. How can you find out what they are really like? Then, if you dare, think about something you are afraid to do that you should do, and ask yourself what you would do if you were Spenser. Then imagine you are Spenser and give it a shot. You may make some interesting progress as a result. You could become irresistible.
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on 16 February 2010
Fans of Robert B Parker should know who Spenser is. He is a private investigator who works out of Boston whose intimidating physique hides an intelligent and witty man. `Hugger Mugger' is another great read in the series as Spenser investigates the shooting of some horses and how events unfold. The central mystery is a very solid one as all the suspects are shown to the reader and you can try and work out what is happening before Spenser does. Balancing clues and not giving the end away is an impressive skill for a crime writer to have and Parker has proven once again that he is up to the challenge.

Like all the Spenser novels a lot of the fun is the character. Told in the first person `Hugger Mugger' has an old fashioned hard boiled feel, set in modern America. Parker is able to make Spenser a genuinely funny and intelligent man that you want to see succeed. As always the side characters are also well written with Spenser's impromptu descriptions painting a vivid picture. As well as having good characters and a strong mystery Parker includes a number of impressive writing flourishes; especially the brilliant calm period at the centre of the book. I was a little let down by the final section of the book, but overall `Hugger Mugger' is a great read and any fan of crime noir should read the series.
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on 17 October 2004
.... if only there was a real man out there like Spenser! I have read all the Spenser novels and this is by far my fave. I love the relationship between Spenser, Hawk and Susan. I really enjoy Robert B Parker's style of writing and in this book, he really does keep you hooked and guessing until the very end. All of his books are page turners.
If you haven't read anything by him yet, start with the Spenser novels and then check out the Jesse Stone novels.
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VINE VOICEon 5 July 2013
Addicts of Robert B Parker will have different favourites. The really greedy hope for Susan Silverman, Pearl the wonder dog, Hawk, Charlie Cimoli, Quirk and Belson, posibly even Jo Broz. Many are missing from Hugger Mugger, notably Hawk, without whom there can't really be five stars.

The consolation is a lot of Susan, justification for Parker's smart dialogue. Boston doesn't feature. Spenser is in Georgia at a racing stables inhabited by a vicious, conniving, amoral family - "like being in a Tennessee Williams play." For much of the time the detective's failure to detect leads to frequent consultations with Susan. There is also a sympathetic - and sympathetically portrayed - local policeman.

The ending is teasingly ambiguous, but it is not reached before Parker has posted an implicit message in support of respect and understanding for the gay community.
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on 26 February 2003
My disappointment in this Spenser book is probably my fault. Reading the jacket, I thought that hey, Parker is going to see what he can do with Spenser in a Dick Francis type story. I should have known better.

The race horse element in this book is strictly peripheral to a rather tired and typical Spenser storyline. Even Spenser himself sounds like he's getting tired of the series. When he's let go early in the book, he actually says okay, goes home, takes a ho-hum case and is ready to forget all about the job he was first hired to do, until he's hired by another of those involved. When he goes back, those he wants to question refuse to talk to him, and be darned if he doesn't accept that. Hey, this isn't the Spenser we've known and loved!
I'm not going to tell you not to read this book. If you're a Spenser addict like me, you'll read it anyway. However, this book convinced me that it's time for me to investigate his two new series.
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on 10 August 2014
Couldn't take this book seriously with a sentence like,

"And you are being brought in over someone who has heretofore been in charge?", in only the second chapter. Who speaks like that?

However, the storyline is OK although as someone else pointed out, no threat to Dick Francis. I won't be rushing to get another book in this series.
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