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"Widow's Walk" is very much a traditional Spenser story, where our hero gets nowhere but plugs on determinedly knowing that sooner or later he will tick somebody off. There is something of a twist to this approach this time around because although we do have the obligatory scenes where a couple of thugs try to show Spenser the error of his ways, the main thing here is the growing number of bodies he is leaving in his wake through the course of his investigation. We also learn that the end may well be near for one of the more beloved supporting players in the series. This is not a great Spenser novel, but it is a solid effort and it seems like it has been a while since we had one of those. Certainly I laughed more reading this one than I have Parker's other recent efforts.
Final comment: Parker's novels have always been ideal for those of us living the commuter lifestyle, but that might make "Widow's Walk" something of a liability in hardback. I polished this book off in about two hours and that was without trying hard and stopping to explain why I was making annoying laughing sounds from time to time. That would make the per hour rate relatively high, especially compared to something like the latest Tom Clancy opus.
Robert B. Parker has set the bar with his poetic private eye, and Spenser is the standard that a whole generation of authors of tough guy private investigator fiction have been measured against. The author has written 29 books about Spenser, 3 about female private eye Sunny Randall, 3 about small town police chief Jesse Stone, a recent Western novel featuring Wyatt Earp, 2 about Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, and a handful of stand-alone tales. The Spenser books were also the source material for ABC's SPENSER: FOR HIRE television series starring Robert Urich, and a string of A & E movies that now feature Joe Mantegna.
As in any Robert B. Parker work, the prose is sparse and dead-on, the dialogue crisp and clean, and the hero featured up front and center. WIDOW'S WALK has a lot to offer to old fans in the way of action and one-liners. The cynical wit and the camaraderie with Hawk and Belson, the relationship with Susan Silverman, are all in place in this addition to the Spenser franchise.
The overall plot sometimes comes across as thin and hard to get at. Banking terms and financial situations remain somewhat hazy, though the reader never gets the impression that Parker is playing fast and loose with them. Susan's loss of a patient through suicide comes across as a near-miss. The loss and Susan are important, but so far distant from what Spenser is working and dealing with that the death should have been excised from the book or given more weight, whether in terms of the Smith case or touching more directly on the Spenser/Susan relationship. The final villain, even though the reader is prepared for him, remained off stage so much that he seemed like a shadow and never came to life in any way.
A Spenser novel isn't designed or meant to be a heavy cerebral experience. Spenser is a hands-on, shoot-'em-up type of guy, the kind of man that the male and female audience who are fans of action and adventure can stand up and cheer for. Readers experienced with Spenser and Parker will want to add this book to their collection, and readers that want to embrace a new author and a new tough guy hero can pick this book up and be able to make a critical judgment on whether to pick up the rest of this exciting series. Robert B. Parker and Spenser always deliver exactly what they set out to do: a look into crime and a man's vision of himself and the cause-and-effect relationship he has with his world. The writing is simply the best, tight and efficient and involving.
As does his beloved Red Sox, Parker sends a fresh Spenser mystery onto the field of play every year. Each spring, Spenser seems like a championship creation. Every novel is consistently thrilling, witty, unpredictable, and, in the end, a bit heartbreaking. This series is obviously written by a Red Sox fan. One knows when they begin that in the end all will not be idyllic.
WIDOW'S WALK fits this Spenser mold perfectly. Parker is amazingly consistent. In this novel, Spenser is hired by Rita Fiore (an series semi-regular)to help build her defense for her client Mary Smith. Mary's husband, Nathan, of Mayflower lineage, is murdered. Mary, his much younger and terribly unfaithful, widow is everyone's, including Rita's, favorite suspect.
Spenser springs into action. Pearl the Wonder Dog is on hand. Susan is here, and, of course, so is Hawk. WIDOW'S WALK has all we have grown to expect from Parker's series. The witty dialog snaps rapidly throughout. Parker's social observations are astute. The true origin of the crime rests with a real estate scam. As one reads WIDOW'S WALK, one has to hope that this year the Red Sox will actually find a way to win the World Series in October. The last time Parker's team won it, the Series was played in September.
WIDOW'S WALK is an excellent novel.
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