BOOK: Painted Ladies by Robert B. Parker (2010)

I launched into this Spenser novel last weekend thinking it was the last one I’d ever read, as Robert B. Parker died last year, much to my incredible grief.  Happily, I was wrong about that — there’s one more (Sixkill) AND, hurrah!, there’s also a “Young Spenser” novel for young adults (Chasing the Bear), which is the next one in my pile.

(Incidentally, and unhappily, I also learned recently that the publisher of this series hired SOME OTHER GUY to continue writing Spenser novels (!!).  Sacrilege!  Just let it go, stupid publisher!  I get that you want to keep raking in the dough, but you’re going to ruin it, and everybody who’s a true fan knows it, and you’re a bunch of buttheads.  THE END.)

This one is about a stolen painting, a ransom payment that goes terribly wrong, and Spenser’s quest to put things right again.  It’s as funny, fast-paced, and thoroughly entertaining as all the rest and, unfortunately true to form with the last several in the series, I felt like the ending was kind of abrupt and rushed.  But now that Parker is gone, I confess I wish he’d rushed a few more endings and cranked out a few more stories.  I first started reading this series when I was working part-time as a library assistant in high school, at a military library that got almost no patrons.  I devoured every one we had in the stacks in a single summer, along with all of Ed McBain’s 87th precinct novels (which are also excellent), and I’ve been reading them steadily ever since. I’m just not ready to let them go.

It’s rare a writer doesn’t totally fizzle out after keeping a series going for such a long time — aside from Parker, Ed McBain, and Dick Francis, I can’t think of another modern mystery series that didn’t start to suck after about seven installments (long since given up on Patricia Cornwell and about to ditch Kathy Reichs too, for example).  But the Spenser series never jumped the mystery-series shark.  The people grew and changed, they came and went and sometimes came back again, the stories never got tired, and the setting, Boston, one of my favorite cities, was always a joy to hang out in.  As corny as this sounds, I’ve long thought of Spenser, Susan, Hawk, Bensen, Quirk, Pearl, and the others as my friends.  I got to know them that well.  And I will miss them tremendously.

Luckily, I’ve forgotten most of the early books, so as soon as I turn the last page of Sixkill, I think it’ll be time to start all over again.  Thanks for the memories, Mr. Parker.  You will be missed.


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2 Responses to “BOOK: Painted Ladies by Robert B. Parker (2010)”

  1. RogerBW Says:

    I’ve never read any of these books. I guess I should start. 🙂

    Sequels by other hands are almost always a mistake – even the Jill Paton Walsh sequels to Sayers don’t quite catch the tone. In fact I can’t think offhand of an example that worked, except perhaps for some of the pulp series like Doc Savage where they were designed from the start to be written by different people. Comics too, I suppose, on a similar basis.

    Quite a lot of writers can’t handle seven books without going stale, never mind seven books with the same characters… Dick Francis is borderline, I think, since they aren’t really a series even if the heroes sometimes feel a bit interchangeable. Sayers/Wimsey? I’ve been reading Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli/Isles books recently, up to volume 8 so far, and I don’t think she’s lost it – she has the sense to change up the settings and the plots, rather than “oh boy here we are going after yet another serial killer in Boston”.

  2. Liz Says:

    Do you think the “Harry Potter” series jumped the shark? (I know – we’re not talking murder mystery series here.) It stopped at seven – could that be significant? I was afraid the series was staring to “J.T.S.” around book 5 or 6, but it pulled itself together, IMHO, by the last one. The movies, however, except maybe the first one or two were DROWNED BY THE SHARK! I thought the “Deathly Hallows Pt. I” was okay, and here’s hoping “Pt. II” will be good.

    Meg, maybe you could do a little side-by-side critique of the “Spencer” books, and the TV show. I think you’ve done it before, but I would still be interested.

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