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Sunny sees Susan the shrink and still saves Sarah
on 8 July 2005
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.