Helen Brann, who was Robert B. Parker's agent, reported that on the morning he died Parker was working on a Spenser Christmas story. When Parker's widow told her that, and said she wondered what would happen to it now, Brann offered to finish it. The result is Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday Novel. It's one last look at the meaning of family by a man who knew that family isn't always related, but sometimes made of people we want to be with, people we care about.
It's two weeks before Christmas when an eleven-year-old boy, Slide, shows up in Spenser's office, asking him to help his friend, Jackie. Joachim Lorenzo Alvarez, "Jackie", runs Street Business, a business that isn't exactly legal in an area of Boston that isn't the best. He gives kids a place to live and his brother helps him find jobs for the boys, orphans, runaways, kids that need help. Jackie's older brother, Juan, was a successful Puerto Rican businessman who had money and clout, and, in the past, had provided protection for Street Business. But, someone was roughing up Jackie's kids, so he went to Spenser for help. Spenser wanted to help because he saw Slide as "The most terrified kid trying not to show it I've ever seen." It was easy to recruit Hawk to help, a man who remembered his own days as a terrified boy.
Helen Brann may have been Parker's agent for years, but this book still isn't Spenser as he was when Parker wrote. There are missing parts. Spenser's cooking isn't as exquisite as it was in earlier books. The wit isn't as crackling as it once was. But, sadly, Hawk is the weakest part of the book. Hawk isn't the same character. He wasn't as suave as he could be. Parker's Hawk would never have been as coarse in front of two women and a boy as this Hawk is at Christmas dinner.
I've read every Spenser novel that Robert B.Parker wrote, and all the ones that have been attempted since. But, I'm finished with them. Even though Parker's books didn't have mysteries in the last years, they still had wit and character. That's missing in all the Spenser books that have come out since his death, including Silent Night. Without the heart, there's no reason for me to try to read any more of these books.
Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday Novel by Robert B. Parker with Helen Brann. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2013. ISBN 9780399157882 (hardcover), 230p.
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