Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Blast from the past
Here's something I might do from time to time: reprint an old book review I originally wrote for another venue (usually Amazon), describing a title that you can currently purchase on Kindle.
The following is a review of Robert B. Parker's "Hugger Mugger", a novel in his "Spenser" series that came out in 2000. The review was written that year, too, for Amazon. I like this review because it casts a somewhat more critical eye on this favorite series of mine, playing down my usual fawning a little. Anyway, here it is...
Alfred Hitchcock explored the same themes over and over again (the wrong man accused; the trials and tribulations of being an icy blonde; how to deal with an overbearing mother, etc., etc.) but he did so in films that were as different from one another as could be. Psycho was nothing like North by Northwest which was nothing like The Birds, and so on.
Robert B. Parker explores the same themes over and over, too (his themes usually being the nature of honor, the nature of fidelity and how it can survive in a hedonistic world, and how all crimes seem to harken back to family dysfunction and other shaky psychological underpinnings). The problem with Parker in recent years is that he has not sufficiently done the Hitchcock thing: he has not hung his themes on sufficiently different stories and plots. In other words, Parker the artist was doing fine but Parker the craftman was marking time in many ways.
I am happy to say, however, that Parker the craftman worked a little harder in Hugger Mugger to give us something a little different. Gone (mostly, anyway) is the Boston locale of practically every other Spenser adventure; and members of the usual supporting cast are seen in small doses or not at all. The result is a freshness we haven't had in a while. We get to see some new scenarios and different types of characters; and we get to once again see, for the first time in a while, extended scenes of Spenser the introspective loner.
All that contributed to an enjoyable reading experience. Yeah, I kinda missed Hawk, but I'm sure he'll be back next time. I only hope that Parker the craftsman continues to attempt to show us new things in the next Spenser title, as he did here. All those Boston restaurants and those descriptions of how Susan eats like a bird are kind of fun, but they can get somewhat tiresome, too!
Okay, back to 2011. If "Hugger Mugger" sounds interesting to you, you can pick it up and enjoy it without reading the "Spenser" titles that come before or after it. It's currently available on Kindle for $9.99. This is a little pricey for a mystery that originally came out over ten years ago, I'll admit; $5.99 or $6.99 would seem a more realistic price point. But the wacky world of Kindle pricing is a topic for a whole other post!
Oh, in case you're curious: the hope expressed in the final paragraph of the review was somewhat fulfilled. Several "Spenser" novels in the wake of "Hugger Mugger" went off in compelling new directions, plotwise. But some were also content to play in the sandbox of tried-and-true plot and character scenarios. But on that last point, don't we all like a little comfort and familiarity in our favorite series? Ah, there I go with my apologist fawning again!