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Back Story

Reviewed: July 19, 2005
By: Robert B. Parker
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
304 pages, $10.99

Six Krispie Kreme donuts might not seem like a big retainer for a case involving a 28 year old murder, but Spenser has a soft spot for Paul Giacomin, who has sort of been his ward since he was in his teens, so when Paul arrives with Daryl Silver, an actor in his most recent stage play, Spenser listens to her request.

Daryl's mom was killed in a bank robbery when Daryl was just a child. The case was never solved, and Daryl has developed a burning need for closure. Spenser issues what is a fairly standard warning for him, that once he begins a case he will finish it, even if the client doesn't want him to. Daryl obviously wasn't listening hard enough while he was speaking.

In the course of the story Daryl learns more than she really wants to know about her background, her parentage, and the circumstances of her mother's death.

In a very short time Spenser learns a number of very confusing things and receives a number of warnings from some very serious sounding people. He should walk away from this case or he will be hurt. Clearly, they don't know him very well - haven't been reading the books. Several people die. None of them are Spenser, or Hawk, who has joined him for backup at at point.

Once the bad guys get really stupid and threaten Susan Silverman, it is clear that they are not intelligent people and that they are pretty desperate about hiding the secret of Emily Gold's death. That alone is enough to make Spenser more curious.

There's more. Quirk, a Boston policeman who often turns a blind eye to Spenser's bending of procedure, is curious about this case, as is Epstein, an FBI agent who has become anxious about certain files that are supposed to exist, but don't. Whatever else Spenser might think about the FBI, he has never accused them of sloppy filing.

The case meanders from the east coast to the west, staggers through two messy shoot-outs, and winds its way through an elaborate cover-up before we get anywhere near the truth.

In the meantime, Spenser and Susan are training a replacement for Pearl, the wonder dog, who has apparently died in a book that I must have missed. Pearl II is supposed to become as much like the original model as possible, which leads to some moments of levity in an otherwise fairly violent episode of the Spenser saga.

Also of interest for Parker fans is the fact that this novel wanders into Paradise territory and police chief Jesse Stone, the central character in Parker's second series. Jesse is only too happy to assist unofficially in a case which involves a Paradise based hoodlum he's been keeping an eye on.

I half expected Spenser to sub-contract some work to Boston based Sunny Randall as well, but that'll have to wait for another book.

Spenser novels are a summer travelling pleasure for me. It's nice to settle into a user friendly, familiar universe for a few hours when you're away from home yourself. The setting, the banter, the friendships and the love are probably more important than the actual mystery, but it stands up okay too.

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