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Rolling around in my head is the notion of what a Tom Clancy novel would be like if Robert B. Parker wrote it, because reading this latest Sunny Randall novel reminded me that Parker is the most economical story teller that I read on a regular basis. This is a quote from "The Washington Post Book World" on the front flap that says "Parker can reveal more about a character in five words of dialogue than many writers can in an entire book." "Melancholy Baby" is 296-pages long and has 64 chapters, and since the lines are spaced 1-1/2 lines it is easy reading on the eyes as well.

This fourth Sunny Randall novel begins with our heroine in a very bad move because Ritchie, her ex-husband, is getting married to a woman that Sunny wants to kill and getting a much pleasure out of the idea before she finally has to let go of it. Sunny knows that she does not want to be married and apparently while she can live with Rosie, her bull terrier, she cannot live with anybody else but her dog. Two things end up helping Sunny get out of her funk. First, she gets a new client, Sarah Markham, a college student who has become convinced that her parents are not her biological parents. Her parents insist they are really her parents, but refuse to take DNA tests to prove it. Sarah is living off a trust fund so she has the cash to push the effort. Anybody who has read one of Parker's novels knows that the modus operandi is for Sunny to go around and ask questions to see what shakes loose, because something always does sooner or later and there are usually dead bodies involved.
The other thing that helps Sunny get her head straight is going to see a shrink, and not just any shrink but Susan Silverman (who else?). Part of the humor of their sessions is to see Spenser's lady love through the eyes of a different character (and a female one as well). The other part is that Susan does unto Sunny as Sunny does to the people she questions throughout the novel. The big difference is that Susan elicits Sunny's self-analysis more through a series of pupil dilations and slight head movements than actual verbal sentences. One of the nice things about this novel is that Sunny makes as much progress in the sessions with Susan as she does out on the streets with Sarah's case. Figuring out whodunit in this one is not that hard, but proving it and, more importantly, doing something about it is what is more important in a Parker novel.
Long time readers of those novels will recognize the return to one of Parker's stronger themes, that of helping a child to grow up (which goes all the way back to "God Save the Child"). The difference when the mentor is Sunny instead of Spenser is that she is still trying to get a handle on being an adult, but she certainly uses that to her advantage in dealing with Sarah. What will be familiar to readers is the key to such persuasion, which is giving the kid the information and letting them make an informed choice without being judgmental. It would be interesting to see what one of Parker's characters would do raising a kid from the start instead of having to intervene during the tumultuous teenage years, but I do not see that really being a future Parker novel.
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Who are you? How do you know who you are?
Robert B. Parker takes a fresh look at both questions in this wry and ironical novel.
PI Sunny Randall finds the ground swept out from under her feet when her ex-husband, Richie, announces he will remarry. Sunny cannot live with or without Richie, and she finds herself needing to find out what her true motivations are. Why cannot she be married to the man she loves?
At the same time, Sunny takes on a new client, Sarah Markham, a troubled young woman who wants to know who her birth parents are. Sunny doesn't much like the client, but sympathizes with her troubled self-image while being something of a role model to Sarah.
Sunny soon decides that there's something wrong in the Markham family. Neither parent will submit to DNA testing, and their reasons don't make much sense. The "parents" are vague about everything else. What are they hiding? Matters quickly become more dangerous when Sarah and her boyfriend are roughed up, and the same goons come looking for Sunny. But did they count on Spike?
While the case proceeds, Sunny starts twice-a-week therapy sessions with a new therapist, Dr. Susan Silverman, who will fascinate you in her cool professional role.
The mystery in this book isn't really much of a mystery. It's more of an investigative procedural.
The developing identity story is a fascinating one, and the book is riveting when Mr. Parker turns his attention into that arena.
The book's major flaw is that Mr. Parker cannot quite take himself seriously. He puts little jokes into the book that distract from the story and take you away from being inside story with the characters. A good example is having Sunny endlessly fantasizing about what kind of a Harvard professor Susan hangs out with. Really!
As usual, the dialogue sparkles like perfectly polished diamonds do on a sunny day. The therapy session dialogues are quite remarkable.
0Comment|5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Who are you? How do you know who you are?
Robert B. Parker takes a fresh look at both questions in this wry and ironical novel.
PI Sunny Randall finds the ground swept out from under her feet when her ex-husband, Richie, announces he will remarry. Sunny cannot live with or without Richie, and she finds herself needing to find out what her true motivations are. Why cannot she be married to the man she loves?
At the same time, Sunny takes on a new client, Sarah Markham, a troubled young woman who wants to know who her birth parents are. Sunny doesn't much like the client, but sympathizes with her troubled self-image while being something of a role model to Sarah.
Sunny soon decides that there's something wrong in the Markham family. Neither parent will submit to DNA testing, and their reasons don't make much sense. The "parents" are vague about everything else. What are they hiding? Matters quickly become more dangerous when Sarah and her boyfriend are roughed up, and the same goons come looking for Sunny. But did they count on Spike?
While the case proceeds, Sunny starts twice-a-week therapy sessions with a new therapist, Dr. Susan Silverman, who will fascinate you in her cool professional role.
The mystery in this book isn't really much of a mystery. It's more of an investigative procedural.
The developing identity story is a fascinating one, and the book is riveting when Mr. Parker turns his attention into that arena.
The book's major flaw is that Mr. Parker cannot quite take himself seriously. He puts little jokes into the book that distract from the story and take you away from being inside story with the characters. A good example is having Sunny endlessly fantasizing about what kind of a Harvard professor Susan hangs out with. Really!
As usual, the dialogue sparkles like perfectly polished diamonds do on a sunny day. The therapy session dialogues are quite remarkable.
0Comment|2 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 25 April 2015
Book four of the glorious Sunny Randall series, written by the great, late Robert B Parker is (for the most part) a joy to read, experience and solve. Hired at the book’s commencement by a young girl to find her birth parents, Sunny immediately comes across two less than helpful, and (as it turns out) two less than honest people who brought up the young girl in question.

They refuse to submit to DNA testing to discover the truth the easy way, and refuse to say why. Forced to find the truth the hard way, Randall goes searching for absolutes in the girl’s past as well as that of the parents. Along the way, some interesting questions are asked (and answered) concerning all parties, and even deep, deep, pertinent ones relating to Sunny herself are brought to the reader’s attention.

In some respects, the book is quite sad. Sunny on the one hand, is a beautiful, determined, talented, go-getter who believes in truth, justice and the American Way Of Life. On the other hand, she is clearly being held back (on a personal level) by long buried issues and events, so the reader may well find themselves almost too scared to learn of the issues causing Sunny’s psychological distress with her now-married ex. But, fellow book lovers, if we (and Sunny) learn the why, then we (and Sunny) should be able to move on.

A delightful surprise comes when we meet Sunny’s new psychiatrist. I won’t ruin it here by saying what it is, but long term and well read fans of Mr Parker will find the cost of this book (e, or p) more than worth the price of admission with this revelation.

The characters are all beautifully drawn, even the minor ones, and are smart enough to reveal only a portion of the information our heroine is searching for.

Humour and dry wit normally have a large role to play in the Parker books, but this one ain’t funny. It is too serious and problematical, at least before the mystery is solved, and as I have already said, the book itself is well structured, with several levels of story telling built into it’s foundations. Humour may well have a cameo, right at the end. We shall all have to wait and see.

I have not quite finished MELANCHOLY BABY, but for its originality, and it’s depth, and for the extra psychological interest in Sunny’s problems, and for (finally) giving readers such a joyous surprise, I am happy to give it full marks. And it possesses easily one of the best book titles ever developed for a member of this fantastic, ever developing and always relevant genre.

BOOKS RULE!!!

BFN Greggorio.
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on 30 October 2009
I discovered Robert B Parker about a year ago, with a TV movie starring Tom Sellick. Like what I saw, looked out for the books, and have been hooked ever since.
This one is, in my opinion, one of his best. The characters are well drawn, fleshed out with the minimum of description. Mr Parker does 'minimum' very well, less is certainly more. The set pieces are great - the Lolly Drake/Eugene Corsetti encounter is brilliantly written - and the narrative bounds along at a stunning pace, with dialogue to match. The fact that you've already worked the ending before you get there doesn't much matter, its the journey that counts.
A thoroughly enjoyable read, pure enjoyment from start to finish.
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on 1 March 2015
The usual Parker formula of smart, sassy detective, and adorable dog with some cartoon villains who never stand a chance.
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on 4 April 2013
It might have seemed strange to start with but soon became very hard to put down, another book for my library.
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on 9 May 2014
Not a patch on the Jesse Stone books. I found it very slow and to be honest, at times difficult to follow
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on 26 March 2015
Again great story - nice to see Bob Parker's female side
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on 11 March 2015
Once again all parkers' books are good
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