Sunday, January 23, 2011

THE BOXER AND THE SPY by Robert B. Parker

I've written these comments in two parts.  The first part is about the book itself.  The second part is about how I checked out the book from my local library using an e-reader download.  Electronic checkout was a first for me.

Robert B. Parker's The Boxer and the Spy is a youth novel.  Two fifteen-year-olds solve the murder of a classmate.  They also begin to develop a relationship.

Terry Novak sets out to solve the for-him-unexplained death of a classmate. The police think they already know what happened, a routine teen suicide involving the abuse of steroids.

We do already know what happened. Parker reveals that part of the backstory early. 

Terry is the boxer.  His friend (later to become a girlfriend) Abby is an equal partner in the investigation. 

A former professional boxer named George is Terry's mentor.   And Abby is the spy.  She develops a network to make it possible to shadow suspects even though neither of the protagonists drives a car. 

This book was so Parker.  At one point, a friend asks Terry why he has a need to know what really happened to the victim, Jason Green, a distant high school friend.  Terry replies:

"I don't know why I want to know. I don't know anything.  I'm fishing."

"For what?" Tank said.

"Anything that bites, I guess.  I can't seem to let go of it."

In other words, Terry is a junior Spenser.  Spenser operates the same way.

And at another point, after she witnesses Terry in a fight he didn't start, Abby says:

"...I don't know if I could spend my life with someone cruel and angry like that."

Terry felt the familiar electric thrill when she mentioned spending her life with him and the equally charged flicker of fear when she suggested there could be a reason not to.

George nodded.

"There it is," George said.  "Isn't it?"

Terry and Abby both looked at him.

"You known him nearly your whole life," George said to Abby.  "And you never seen him angry and cruel before."


"That the control thing," George said.  "The good ones like Terry ..." Wow! Terry thought.  "They can control it and use it only when they fight."

"And the bad ones?" Abby said.

"Kip Carter," George said.

"They don't control it, " Abby said.  "They let it out all the time."

George nodded.

"You think everybody has cruelty and anger in them?"  Abby said.

"I hear you punched Kip Carter on the lip when he grabbed you in the woods," George said.

As I said, this book is so Parker.

And that brings me to the second prong of these comments--how I got the book.

I checked it out from my local library by downloading it on my Nook.  It is the first book I'd done that with. 

Our local library now checks out books electronically, only a few right now.  They brag about having 700 to check out.  The number will grow.

The library works through a company which does such things.  I logged in to the site, had to download an Adobe program which would accept PDFs, and then I downloaded the book to my computer.  From there I transferred it to my Nook.

The process seems awkward right now, but it is like everything else.  It will get more sleek and easy to use as time goes on. 

But I've checked out two books so far, this one a short one I could read and report on.  It was my test, so to speak.  And if I was going to do a test, I might as well do it with a writer I enjoy reading.

You can't download books to a Kindle.  Amazon uses a proprietary file system which makes it possible to order books only from Amazon.  You can download to e-readers which take EPUB and other formats, e-readers such as the Sony, and there are others.

I have not yet figured out what books I can and cannot load to my iPad.  But I see what I've done so far as a step forward.

One thing about the process now--I'll have to get in line to get most of the books.  Seven hundred books to serve a major-college community of one hundred thousand (the largest place we've ever lived), not counting the county around,--that's not many books.  But the number of books available will grow.  Most of the books now listed have as their first alternative, "Place on hold."  That means you go on the list because others have the book checked out and there may be others holding the book ahead of you.

Now my wife is going to read this book.  She likes Parker too.  Then we'll turn it back, something else that appears to be a click-of-the-mouse type process.

I'll let you know as I learn more about all this. Some of you may have been checking out library books electronically for a long time.  I'd like to hear about your experiences too.

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