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"Cold Service," Robert B. Parker's thirty-second Spenser novel will inevitably and invariably be compared by fans to the twenty-fourth Spenser novel, "Small Vices." The latter was the pivotal novel where Spenser was gunned down by the shadowy assassin known as the Grey Man. It took Susan Silverman and Hawk a year to put our hero back together again so that he could take steps to even the score with his assailant. This 2005 Spenser novel begins with Hawk in the hospital, having been shot in the back three times while protecting bookie Luther Gillespie. Now it is Spenser's turn to stand by his friend and not only help him rehabilitate but also to help him even the score. However, there are some significant differences between the two similar stories
First, the rehabilitation part is greatly truncated this time around because the wounds are clearly more to Hawk's pride than his body. Second, because we are talking about Hawk we are much more on the outside than when Spenser was in the same situation. Hawk has already been shot and is talking to Spenser in the hospital when this one starts, and while we miss the action at the start Parker provides symmetry by letting us miss the action at the end as well, which tends to suggest that the action is not the point here. Third, there are significant moral dilemmas this time around. Ironically, none of them exist for Hawk but rather for Spenser, who has reservations about the killing that will be involved, and for Cecila, Hawk's current paramour, who is no where near as accepting of the way her man settles accounts as is the lovely Susan.
However, friendship outweighs moral dilemmas in Spenser's world, and the fact that the point is made several times in the novel speaks to why it seems like Parker is doing this Spenser novel by the numbers. The witty repartee between Spenser and Hawk seems like the witty repartee that we have heard before, and there really is a sense that we are going through the motions here. When we get to the point where Hawk and Spenser assemble some of their small circle of friends to help with the endeavor they really end up with nothing to do. The biggest surprise is that apparently the new person added to that roster is the Grey Man, who turns out to be the only person in the known Spenser universe who speaks Ukranian. You might anticipate that this could lead to something significant happening, but actually it is what does not happen that ends up mattering with the Grey Man.
I think that Hawk is slightly different at the end of this novel, although that may well be projection on my part. It may well be that "Cold Service" simply underscores a fundamental difference between Hawk and Spenser that we have not fully appreciated in the past, but once again that might simply be my trying to read more into this novel than is actually there. As always this Parker novel is a quick read, which makes it eminently easy to work in a chapter here and there throughout the day. It is a pleasant enough read, but given the storyline I was expecting something more than what we ended up getting.
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VINE VOICEon 1 March 2012
This is an odd book. From the opening, it seems we are in for a violent action packed retribution tale. Parker's tough-guy PI Spenser's equally macho friend Hawk has survived an assassination attempt. It falls to Spenser and Hawk to avenge this attack, taking on a whole criminal gang to do so.

And indeed, the book obviously does include our two heroes clash with the gang members, and it's pretty bloody fight. But the main part of the story is some rather aimless planning and plotting. Three key incidents are conversations with Hawk's girlfriend Cecile. Effectively these three conversations are the same, a discussion on why Hawk doesn't love Cecile. This eventually culminates (p159)with the observation :
" "I'm sorry" she finally said.
"Loving Hawk is not easy work" I said.
"It seems easy for you."
The book in general does seem more of an examination of the two modern day warriors' relationship more than an action tale.

As usual in Spenser's adventures, he has massive amounts of aid from both sides of the law, eventually though Hawk does take on his foes alone. This however is done in such a ubermale macho fashion that it does threaten to become a parody.
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on 9 February 2014
Hawk is one of my favourite characters and this is an interesting reversal on the situation Spenser is in when the Gray Man shot him. The problem comes from the fact that Hawk is an enigma and trying to break between the surface leaves Parker with a tricky problem. The usual cryptic dialogue and snappy story will leave you entertained for a couple of hours.
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on 14 February 2014
This is a great fast moving story,but almost believable. I shall watch out for others in the series..well worth reading…un-put-down-able!
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on 6 August 2006
FOR SPENSER 'NEWBIES': Spenser is a private detective of the hardboiled, 'life on the urban streets' style. He is erudite, intellectual and a former heavyweight boxing contender. This particular story follows him and his friend Hawk (also a former contender as well as a hitman/ soldier of fortune type) as they attempt to avenge Hawk's near-fatal shooting.

I wouldn't characterise this as an epic journey like the Jacket blurb. However, it does convey the friendship and attachment that Spenser feels for Hawk in an understated way and is insightful into how some men protect their self-image and identity. If you are a newbie, prepare for unusual levels of analysis and exposition into this identity phenomenon. But also prepare for smart dialogue; sharp action and lovable, well formed characters that you will want more of.

FOR LONG-TIME SPENSER FRIENDS: This is not a bad read. It is a warm and comfortable 'Spenser' novel. I've read them all so far - more than once and I don't feel a moment was wasted. It's just that... I feel he's taking it for granted that his readers know all the backstory. He also trots out some conventional stuff that was fresh twenty years ago, but hearing conversations about Spenser and Hawk's self-reliance and 'inner toughness' for the umpteenth time feels a little worn, even mechanical maybe.

I haven't read the other stuff Parker's been writing recently (Sunny Randall or Jesse Stone) so I don't know if he's spreading his creativity across them, but it feels as though he hasn't spent as much time on this as previous novels.

Ah... maybe I'm expecting too much. Still got the sparkling dialogue and the pace & depth of the action setpieces never disappoints. In his body of Spenser work I give this a THREE - against anyone else's, it's still a FOUR.
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on 6 June 2005
Having been a Spenser fan for 16 years and read each and every one of the series, I was more disappointed than ever before by this book. Maybe I'm getting old and cynical, but I found the tone of the writing to be glib and smug, the plot barely credible and the length of character analysis and developement minimal. The story revolves around Spenser's best buddy Hawk being seriously injured while acting as a bodyguard and then predictably looking for revenge. Given the chance to flesh out Hawk's character further, Parker fails to deliver and before you know it, Spenser and Hawk are doing battle with an improbable cast including Ukrainians and Afghans. Spenser's long-time girlfriend Susan prattles more inanely than ever before in a novel that never comes close to delivering, with Hawk emerging as little more than someone who kills a lot of people, despite having come close to death.
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on 28 February 2015
An excellent addition to the Spenser series, with Spenser and Hawk once again trying. To Do The Right Thing in a world of crime and deceit, where few can be trusted except each other, and where most of the other people are trying to kill you. Tight plot, well-drawn characters and a good mixture of the psychological and the physical. Recommended.
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on 15 August 2014
It breaks my heart that Robert Parker has died and in essence, Spencer, Susan, Hawk and the rest of Parkers characters. It doesn't' seem like a bad idea to start The Godwulf Manuscript again. RIP Bob, we are poorer for your leaving.
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on 14 February 2014
It was ok found it a bit confusing and never really got into the story. Previous books have held my attention more than this one.
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on 24 May 2015
Once again a great story, cleverly plotted with the usual wisecracks and believable characters. Highly recommendable !
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