Monday 12 December 2011

Robert B. Parker: Hush Money

Hush Money is the first Spenser novel I'm reviewing here, though it's not the first in the series. It's the quintessentual Parker book - well written, well paced, some complex ideas dealt with simply, some detection, some action, some Spenser/Hawk humour. If you like this, you'll like the rest of the set. If you don't like it, move on - perhaps to the Jesse Stone novels if you want to try more Parker, otherwise to another author.

Spenser, private eye is sat in his office when Hawk arrives with Robinson Nevins. Nevins is a pernicketty academic, three piece suit, bow tie, unmarried. His problem is that he was denied tenure - hardly a case for Spenser to bother with but, as a favour to Hawk, he agrees to take it on.

The Nevins plot thickens when it appears that he is being blamed for the suicide of a young black male - purportedly his ex-lover. The alleged ex was involved in outing prominent closeted gays, had a quarter of a million dollars in the bank and wasn't physically capable of opening the window that he plummeted from. In the meantime some waspishly-penned academics are giving Spenser the runaround - or so they think.

One freebie case not being enough, Spenser's partner (Susan) asks him to investigate the stalking of a friend of hers, KC Roth. KC is a trifle flaky and seems to regard men as fluff, with her being the vacuum cleaner. Spenser preserves his virtue on more than one occasion but only just. Stalker identified, roughly told to keep away - problem solved. Wrong: there's a sting in the tale and a second climax to come.

Back to Hawk - the cool, hard, merciless Hawk. One of the criticisms of the Spenser novels is that we learn very little about Spenser or Hawk - their past, how they formed their friendship. Of Hawk's less savoury activities we hear very little indeed. Here, though, we at least get a brief description of Hawk as a street thug, getting into boxing, being taken in by a good man (Nevins' father), being propositioned as a teen by one of the protagonists of this story.

Said protagonist appears to be a ringleader in preventing Nevins' tenure. Spenser and Hawk stir the pot by slightly illegal means: the response is baffling - Spenser's car is blown up. Not what one expects when dealing with a bunch of English professors. Further poking around leads to a white supremacist, even more anomalous, but he does have the sort of staff who could defenestrate an awkward young man and blow up a car.

So we're set up for a typical Spenser ending. I won't give the details but as you can surmise, might is not right and justice will prevail - amusingly so in Nevins' case.

All in all, a very satisfying read. One minor word of caution: going through it again for this review I was struck by the number of times the f word was used - it would be a shame to let it bother you as you'd miss an enjoyable read but you may want to be aware of it, especially if considering this for a gift.


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