Sunday, November 3, 2013

SILENT NIGHT by Robert B. Parker and Helen Brann

Silent Night by Robert B. Parker and Helen Brann had one line that brought me almost to tears.

It is the Christmas season. The story starts when a homeless boy named Slide comes through Spenser's office door.

Slide asks Spenser to see his friend Jackie Alvarez. Alvarez runs an unlicensed homeless shelter for streetwise boys. Someone is threatening Alvarez.

Alvarez's brother Juan is a prominent businessman.

It doesn't take long for Spenser to learn that Juan Alvarez is a drug runner. He fronts for Mexican cartels. His mistress is a retired tennis pro who has befriended Slide.

Juan is closing out the business, getting ready to disappear. His own thugs beat up Jackie, threaten Slide, and set up an attempt to kill the female tennis pro. When the drug kingpin leaves, he will leave no witnesses behind.

The tennis pro's murder will take place at a final Christmas party staged as an armed break-in and aborted robbery attempt.

Spenser, Hawk, and Vinnie take on the brother and his mob at the party. The events there are rather tame by Spenser standards, but for me, that didn't much detract from the story.

I liked the story and its characters, especially Slide.

But I, like everyone else, read this book knowing it is the manuscript Parker was working on at his writing desk when he died. His longtime agent and friend Helen Brann finished the book.

As I read the book, I couldn't help but seeing it as Helen Brann's personal farewell to Robert B. Parker.

That brings me to the one line.

After the story itself is over, Spenser and his friends celebrate Christmas. At the close of a Christmas dinner of turducken (layers of turkey, duck, and chicken with stuffing in between), people disperse leaving the two friends Hawk and Spenser alone.

They talk about the home invasion and how Hawk saved Slide's life. Spenser wishes Hawk, “Merry Christmas, Hawk.” And Hawk replies, “Amani, Spenser. Peace.” Then Spenser goes to be with Susan.

For all kinds of reasons, Hawk's words broke my heart.

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