Sunday, January 13, 2008

My First Review - Mortal Stakes

The honor of my first book post goes to Robert B. Parker and Spenser - that's Spenser with an "s" like the English poet. I'm a little late in finding this great series, but better late than never.

I'm also one of those obsessive people who has to start at the beginning of a series. I hate reading a book late in the series and finding allusions to events that have happened in previous books that I know nothing about. So, I start at the beginning. And with Spenser, I'm up to book three - Mortal Stakes. Most people reviewed this book in 1975 when it came out. My writing skills would have left a lot to be desired then! While I chuckle at some of the details that date this book, it's still as great a book now in 2008 as it must have been in '75 when it was published. Spenser is on the job to find out whether or not a high-profile pitcher for the Boston Red Sox has been fixing games when he pitches.

As always, I love Spenser's intelligent wit. This book, like the previous two, kept me laughing throughout. Even in a serious situation, Spenser can throw out a line and catch you completely off-guard. One of my favorites in this installment of the series was:

"Rabb was naked now, standing with a towel over his shoulder. In fact, most of the people in the dressing room were naked. I felt like a streaker in a nudist colony."

Violet, the New York pimp, was a hysterical character, and Spenser's interactions with him were definitely memorable. I wouldn't mind seeing Violet re-emerge in a later novel; he has a lot of potential for further development.

The reoccurring character of Marty Quirk is a great complement to Spenser. Quirk definitely lacks the sense of humor that Spenser more than makes up for. And Quirk plays by the rules but appreciates the need to sometimes not follow the rules, especially when dealing with the element of Boston's population who make it their job not to follow the rules - enter Spenser, who was unable to play by the rules as a cop, himself.

I wonder if some women readers might be put off by Spenser because of his tendency to ogle the females and make silly, sometimes sexist, comments to them and about them. I find it part of his charm. While he can be silly, it's just superficial. The reality of Spenser leans more toward a strong respect for women. He wants to be a protector, a hero. This comes out a bit in his discussion with Susan Silverman when she makes reference to the "S" on his chest. He would like to be a Superman, but knows that unlike Superman he is a mortal. And his battle with his mortality in this novel was definitely one of its strengths, in my opinion.

Parker's ability to develop antagonists for Spenser is phenomenal. Lester was the perfect "wanna be." And Bucky Maynard was repulsive from the get-go. Doerr and Hogg didn't seem to be developed quite as much, but Spenser's fear of them helped to put them in perspective.

There may be elements of the storyline that are unbelievable, but honestly, I was so caught up in the plot and humor and literary allusions that I didn't take time to notice. As with the previous two, I loved this novel.


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