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Spenser and a new sidekick look for Belson's wife
on 24 July 2004
When "Thin Air" begins with the italicized description of a woman bound in the back of a van, abducted by someone who knows her and is videotaping everything, it is reminiscent of Robert B. Parker's "Crimson Joy," the first Spenser novel to get away from the first person narrative style of the series. When Detective Frank Belson shows up and tells our hero that his wife is gone, we know the identity of the woman in the van. As far as her husband is concerned, Lisa St. Claire has disappeared into "Thin Air" (Parker has been much more mundane with his titles in his recent efforts and it has been years since he started off with any grandiose literary quotations). Each Spenser novel is unique in its own way and for this one the main trick is that we know what has happened to the damsel in distress and we get to watch as our hero gets closer and closer. Belson does not know anything about his wife before the fateful night they met, and, of course, Spenser uncovers a whole lot of information. But what looks like the old story of the beautiful young wife who leaves her older husband is shattered when Belson is ambushed and almost killed.
Whereas the previous Spenser novel dealt with Chinatown, "Thin Air" focuses on the Hispanic elements in the greater Boston area, which forces Spenser to use the assistance of Chollo, the enforcer for the L.A. mobster we met in "Stardust" (Hawk is in Burma--the mind boggles). But while most of the usual supporting cast is not around for this one, Spenser certainly meets a couple of interesting women in the course of his investigation (although I find it strange that Quirk is not a lot more involved in this one). Once again Spenser tries to put all the pieces together and then find a way of making everybody happy, but as usual, things never do work out perfectly. While certainly an atypical Spenser novel, "Thin Air" probably grades out as an average effort for Parker