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Working through the Pain
on 10 June 2004
Double Play introduces a new Parker hero, Joseph Burke, who barely survived a machine gun at Guadalcanal while serving as a Marine in World War II. Back in the states, he doesn't know where he is . . . but he's sure someone's out to get him. After a long physical recovery, his emotional recovery just begins as the story opens.
Burke is a tough guy, and (like Spenser) takes up boxing. But he's better at pounding away and surviving a punch than "floating like a bee" and he soon has to find another line of work. Having scruples makes him a poor enforcer, so he finds himself becoming a body guard. His first job is for a woman who needs to be protected from an abusive boyfriend who's connected . . . and her own bad habits. When that job ends, Burke finds himself in Brooklyn being asked to play the same role for Dodger rookie Jackie Robinson.
The book reminds me of Huckleberry Finn with Jim on the Mississippi in many ways, as Burke finds himself not fitting into either the African-American or the WASP communities as he does his bodyguard work. Burke's awareness of what Jackie Robinson is going through grows, and the reader finds himself taken back to a world that we are hopefully leaving behind as fast as possible where race counted rather than what you did.
Atop of this setting, Mr. Parker overlays gangland vendettas, a love story and his own perspective as a 15 year old on that fateful season in Brooklyn.
For secondary entertainment, you can match up each character in the story to a character from the Spenser books. Although I think Susan would be annoyed to be matched to many of these female characters.
The book has a weakness though that's annoying. It's a little too glib and easy about dealing with the racial hatred of the times. You end up feeling like you are reading about hazing rather than hate.
Any Spenser fan will enjoy seeing the variety of seeing the challenges of doing the right thing from the perspective of pain and numbness rather than from joy and happiness.