From: James R Winter ( winter_writes@earthlink.net)
Date: 17 Jan 2005

When people talk about Parker's opening salvo, arguably the strongest set of PI novels since Spillane's work in the 1950's, they usually point at MORTAL STAKES as a prime example. And there's a good reason. Everyone in this book ends up diminished, except maybe Spenser's two bed buddies, Brenda Loring and Susan Silverman.

Spenser's asked to look into whether Red Sox pitcher Marty Rabb is throwing games. There's nothing concrete to suggest it, only "whispers and rumors." Spenser can't see much in the beginning, but an insecure thug named Frank Doerr decides to lean on him. Not the brightest way to avoid suspicion. Spenser pulls on a loose thread, the vague personal history of Linda Rabb, and tracks her down as Donna Burlington to a small Mississippi River town in Illinois. From there, she went to New York to become first a street walker, then a high priced call girl, and finally, the wife of a Red Sox pitcher. Someone has been using that information to blackmail Rabb, and Doerr, it seems, is reaping the profits.

A couple things I didn't like was Spenser's seeming invincibility. He stares down and disarms hitman Wally Hogg, though later he says Hogg is dangerous. He also beats the snot out of Lester, the bodyguard to Red Sox play-by-play man, Bucky Maynard. Again, a little too easy for my tastes. Spenser hardly gets a scratch for all his work.

What makes up for the Superman routine is Spenser's mental wounds. He's forced to commit murder to save both himself and the Rabbs. And here's where Susan Silverman shines. Spenser doesn't go to Brenda Loring, whom he spends 2/3 of the book sleeping with. He goes to Susan, who sits and listens and says she knows him well enough to know he had a good reason. Also, Susan actually IS beautiful in the book, rather than the later insipid description of men gladly letting their eyes burst into flame so they can gaze upon her supernatural beauty. All the roots of what we've come to hate about this series are here, but in MORTAL STAKES and probably all the way up to VALEDICTION, it works. It's genuine. Besides, Spenser actually lives on the calendar rather being this bulletproof smartass he's become. And Hawk is nowhere in sight. Not that I dislike Hawk, but there are days when I think he and Spenser ought to just elope now that it's legal in Massachussetts.

Best line: "If Ihad a dog, I could walk it." Apparently, Pearl had not yet been born.

And now for the most controversial thing I came away with. Has anyone read this and thought Maynard and Lester were gay? I normally laugh things like that off, but I really got that vibe in a couple of scenes. It might be just me. Or I might be just stirring up a hornets' nest. Probably both.

Jim Winter

http://www.jamesrwinter.com http://jamesrwinter.blogspot.com winter-newsletter-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

------------------------ Yahoo! Groups Sponsor --------------------~--> Has someone you know been affected by illness or disease? Network for Good is THE place to support health awareness efforts! http://us.click.yahoo.com/rkgkPB/UOnJAA/Zx0JAA/kqIolB/TM

RARA-AVIS home page: http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/
  Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 17 Jan 2005 EST