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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Bad Business

Reviewed: January 15, 2006
By: Robert B. Parker
Publisher: Berkley Books
336 pages, $10.99

Spenser should have known better than to take a divorce case. Maybe it was that Marlene Rowley seemed so utterly clueless; perhaps that brought out the knight errant in him. He's a soft touch that way. Besides, there was some money in it and his last case only paid him in doughnuts.

There wasn't supposed to have been a murder in this case. It was a startling development. Spenser actually ended up reporting the crime when the man he was shadowing failed to leave his office one night.

All of this eventually led to the realization that there was something rotten at the heart of the Kinergy company for which Trenton Rowley had worked as a senior executive. It seems fairly clear that Parker wrote this book after the Enron scandal. The scam that some of the senior management have been working at Kinergy, which also deals in energy and oil futures and distribution, seems quite similar.

As bent as the company's corporate practices might have been, it soon emerges that the private lives of its top executives are even more so. Tracking down this angle of the case actually provides Spenser with the leverage he needs to solve the rest of it.

As usual, much of the novel is on comfortable ground, dealing with the relationships between Spenser and the love of his life, Susan Silverman, as well as his complicated relationship with Hawk. A couple of new characters are brought into the mix in this instalment of the series, and this gives Parker the opportunity to have discussions about the motivations and ethics or his central cast.

While nothing terribly significant happens here in terms of long range development of Spenser and his cronies, Bad Business was nevertheless a satisfying book, one I enjoyed and got a few chuckles out of. It's not always necessary to break new ground in a series; sometimes it's enough to tend the garden you already have.

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