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|Better Than Some, Not His Best,
Robert B. Parker
|This is an interesting departure for Spenser --
Parker has apparently decided to see if he can still get a handle on the
character without the "furniture" that has accumulated in the series over
Thus, Hawk is nowhere to be seen, Vinnie Morris and Martin Quirk are voices
on telephones doing favours for Spenser, and Spenser isn't even in Boston.
Beyond that, Parker rings variations on some of his own cliches -- the thuggish
character whom Spenser has to humiliate turns out to be one of the Good Guys
in the end, the local Top Cop not only likes Spenser, he's happy to have
him stirring up trouble on the local scene that, for political reasons, the
local law can't get into... and other somewhat off-center takes.
Parker has either visited Atlanta recently or done his research well -- when
Spenser comes to Atlanta from (fictitious) Lamarr, he speaks of the local
geography and business with a quiet assurance -- and accuracy.
Another departure for Spenser is the ending -- about which all i can say
is just that -- that it's not a usual-type Spenser ending. I'll even go so
far as to say that some readers (of whom i'm not one) may feel that he really
hasn't completed the story. But he has -- the solution is complete and elegant
in Spenser's head, and he knows the guilty will sooner or later suffer...
One odd element in this book is that a completely-unrelated short story (set
in Boston), with unrelated characters, is spliced into the middle of the
Parker has Susan refer to the events in this short story in a rather
forced-sounding attempt to make it fit in by having her explain something
about the main story by referring to the events of the interlude... But it
really doesn't work.
OTOH, it's a neat little vignette of Spenser at work, deciding where justice
lies and then going ahead and facilitating Justice with little regard for
law, legality or the feelings of his client.
One minor gripe -- As in "Paper Doll" (set in an equally fictitious South
Carolina county that Spenser briefly visits again in "Hugger Mugger"), Parker
has missed a minor piece of Southrun talk -- we don't, generally, refer to
Interstate highways as, say, "Route 20" -- such a reference is usually reserved
for some piddly little State Highway; two-lane blacktop winding thru
god-knows-where in the less-populated end of the county.
Don't know why that bothers me, except it's so obvious, as if Spenser were
in Louisiana and referred to the "County Jail"...
Highly recommended, despite my personal dialog twitches.