Saturday, March 29, 2008

Two New Additions

I recently finished Promised Land by Robert B. Parker, the fourth Spenser novel, and also a book titled Field of Fire by James O. Born. This is the first novel I've read by Born.

In Field of Fire, Alex Duarte is an ATF agent and former member of the Army. After arresting and then losing Alberto Salez on a gunrunning charge, he vows to set things straight. But setting things straight winds Duarte square in the middle of a serial bombing/murder investigation.

I found the writing in this book a bit on the flat side. There was really no humor interspersed or great use of literary devices; it was just pretty "everyday." Books that "wow" me are always ones that somehow make magic with the language. This one didn't.

Alex Duarte struck me as the "too good to be true" type of character, sometimes I even had flashbacks of McGyver. I enjoy characters, especially protagonists, who are human and have flaws and shortcomings. He wasn't a bad character by any means, but he also wasn't a character who stayed with me after I finished reading the book, either.

The plot was decent and focused. A little on the predictable side, but for the most part the story was interesting.

On the other hand, Promised Land blew me away. Parker hasn't disappointed me yet. In the fourth installment of the Spenser series, Spenser is hired to find a man's wife. When he finds her and discovers she doesn't want her husband to know where she is, Spenser obliges. But the case doesn't stop there. The husband is in trouble with a loan shark and the wife has taken up with some shady fanatical women. Spenser has to try to save them both. Hawk is introduced in this novel.

I absolutely LOVE Robert Parker's Spenser. He's a complex character with many conflicting characteristics. But the conflictions work. It's hard not to be endeared to his wit and determination to "do right."

The introduction of Hawk adds a new layer of complexity to Spenser's character as well. Hawk mentions to Susan that he and Spenser are more alike than she notices, and I think that's very true. Right down to the single names. When Spenser tells the police captain about Hawk, the captain wants to know what Hawk's full name is. Spenser says, "I don't know; just Hawk."

At one point in the novel Spenser says to Hawk, "Hawk, all this time I've known you I never could figure out why sometimes you talk like an account exec from Merrill Lynch and sometimes you talk like Br'er Bear." Hawk's response is, "Ah is the product of a ghetto education. Sometimes my heritage keep popping up." Besides the wit in both characters it struck me as mirroring Spenser's ability to "play dumb" when the need arises.

I continue to be in awe of Parker's magic with language. One of the points where it stood out the most for me in this novel was when Spenser makes the observation, "I don't know if I was scared or not, but Shepard was so scared his face didn't fit." I could have NEVER come up with that description, but when I read it, I could vividly see what Parker was talking about. I just couldn't help but smile at that sentence.

I haven't quite figured out what Parker is doing with his punctuation yet. In a lot of the questions the characters ask, the sentence ends with a period, not a question mark. There were several instances where I had to go back and reread before I realized he was asking a question not making a statement. I keep thinking that there must be some reason he's doing this, but I just can't figure out what that reason would be.

I was a bit skeptical on the rationale for the women robbing the bank. Now, this may have more to do with when the book was published, but I at first thought it was a joke. However, no one in the novel seemed to find it as absurd as me, the reader. So, I wonder if it was a viable motive in 1976 when the book was published as opposed to today?

Regardless of these two minor points, I LOVED this book. Moving on to #5...


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