When reading fiction I often notice that some of the author's desires slip onto the page. Most authors will find it hard to keep their own personality separate from that of their protagonist as it's best to write what you know. However, what is on the page is not often the truth, but a stylised version of themselves. If I were going to recreate myself I would be a bit thinner, have more hair and be better structuring sentences at. One man that seems to have a lot of confidence in his inner self is prolific crime author Robert B Parker. With the character of Spenser he has created a wise cracking PI that the ladies love and the fellas fear. To an extent I could believe this character to be true, but what about Parker's other secret desire? Spenser is apparently a sex god as a stalker wants him and his partner keeps having him! Pure indulgent fantasy I assume!
Spenser the beat up PI returns in a duo of different types of case. Rather than the usual murder, blackmail and kidnapping he is asked to look into why a Professor was declined tenure and help a lady with a stalker. Alongside his slightly unhinged pal Hawk, Spenser enters a world of words and secrets. Are academics any better than the usual scum that he has to work with and is Spenser smarter than he looks? Some quick investigating soon shows that not everything is calm as it appears on the surface. Wouldn't you know just underneath is a case all about murder, blackmail and kidnapping! What are the odds?
Parker is a crime author that seems to produce work with effortless ease and at an impressive pace, producing it seems at least two books a year. Usually, I would decry this and suggest that the output would be compromised, but in Parker's case this is not true. I have yet to read a book by him that is not at least decent and in many cases excellent. The secret is that Parker writes light and breezy crime fiction that is great fun to read and does not get overly complicated. 'Hush Money' is a story that falls once more into this definition and is a prime example of his best work.
Taken as a straight crime story there is a lot to be desired with 'Hush'. The cases on offer are pretty simple and the answers a little linear. It is not till the end that the plot thickens and some explanation is needed. In terms of intellectual stimulus a reader is best looking elsewhere. The fun is to be had with Parker's clever and witty writing style. The book is almost a comedy as Parker has created in Spenser and Hawk two characters that you love to hang out with. They are principled men who do what is needed, but are very sarcastic and amusing with it. Alongside Robert Crais' Elvis Cole they represent the best everyman PIs on the market. Parker has created an almost fantasy world of banged up heroes and pompous villains. If you are able to relax into it there is a great book here.
There are a couple of elements in 'Hush Money' that prevent it from being a must read novel and these are down to the plot points this particular novel touches upon; racism and homophobia. As a series of light hearted crime books Parker was never going to become deep on the subject, but he does come across as slightly too flippant on a couple of occasions. It was interesting to read about black and/or gay characters that were actually as flawed as anyone else. At no point does Parker patronise the reader by suggesting that gay/black people are any better or worse than anyone else. The book is too airy to take any offence on the matter, but some actual gravitas on occasion may have actually improved these sections of the book.
'Hush Money' and all the Spenser novels should be one of the go to series for someone looking for some light and breezy crime fiction. This is a modern take on an old fashioned type of crime book were the characters are cliché and either good or bad. As escapism I enjoy nothing more for a couple of days than to read something like this. Parker represents (along with Crais) one of the best authors of this type of crime novel.
Author: Robert B Parker
Price: amazon uk - £0.01p (2nd hand)