Tuesday, April 24, 2012

NOW AND THEN by Robert B. Parker

In Now and Then Robert B. Parker takes his turn at writing a psychological novel.

A distraught FBI agent hires Spenser to prove the agent’s wife is cheating on him. Someone murders both his wife and the agent. Spenser feels an obligation to find the murderer. Also, Spenser remembers the time when Susan left him to be with another man. This case brings up buried feelings. That’s where we get the title, Now and Then.

The real interest in the story is in working out the mystery. The woman’s lover is a small-time terrorist. He manipulates women to further the goals of his group. He took up with this woman, a college literature professor, because he thought she might give him an in to the thinking of the FBI.

As a part of his investigation, Spenser dropped a bug in the woman’s purse. Now Spenser has a mildly incriminating tape.

The “radical” suspect has a convoluted history. He is a failed hippie who is still a failure. But still he is dangerous. Spenser, Hawk, Vinnie and Chollo end up working together to protect Susan.

And the story goes from there.

This is the Parker of old. Now and Then is a clear, straight-through, interesting story with psychological veneer. By the end of the story, Spenser and Susan are talking marriage.

Those of us who have read most of the Spenser books know some things don’t change. At this stage of the game, no matter what future books hold, Spenser and Susan won’t break up. Nothing threatens their relationship.

So the psychological part didn’t interest me much. There are some A-grade Spenser books, but this book wasn’t one of them. This story was as entertaining as the B-grade Spenser’s are. That was enough for me.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I read a ton of the Spenser and Hawk books in the 80s and 90s, around the time the late great Robert Urich and just as great Avery Brooks were playing the roles on TV. This one however passed me by - I never found Parker less than readable and its usually the comparative strength and emphasis on plot that seemed to mark some of the books out from the general run. But then he was quite prolific so I guess it makes sense to think of these as either A or B category - for me I don't think I've read any that dropped lower than that though.

Joe Barone said...

That's what I admire about Parker. He always writes something entertaining. He has a large body of work. And he died at his desk writing.

I decided to work my way through the Spenser series as my way of showing my respect for him. I'm almost there, and I'm glad I've done it.