Friday, October 09, 2009

The Professional by Robert B. Parker

By my count, I've read forty-five books by Robert B. Parker, probably the most I've read by any author. When I finished The Professional, his latest Spenser novel, I had read all thirty-seven Spenser books, one Jesse Stone, four Sunny Randall, both Philip Marlowe ones, and even a teen novel. And, I just discovered he has "A Young Spenser novel," called Chasing the Bear, in which Spenser reflects back to when he was fourteen. I ordered it.

What is it about Parker's books that appeal to me? The characters and conversation. It certainly isn't suspense, since there isn't much in recent books. And, I've said that before when I've reviewed the Spenser books. But, I like Spenser, the idealistic knight fighting for good, with his own code of conduct. He's a loyal friend, and his friendships with Hawk, Quirk, Belson, and even Susan Silverman are long-standing ones, that require little chitchat. Instead, there's humor, wordplay, and unspoken affection between Spenser and his friends. That loyalty and wit draw me back for one book after another.

In The Professional, four women show up to hire Spenser because they discovered they were all having affairs with the same man, who is now blackmailing them. What do they have in common? Each woman is the wealthy, younger wife of an older man. And, as Spenser digs, he finds the business that leads him to "Gary Eisenhower," a man who makes a profession out of his hobby of sex. But, Gary was in prison at one time, after he had a affair with the wrong woman, one strong enough to admit her affair, and take responsibility for it. None of these four women are willing to admit their affair, or, in most cases, even end it.

Because none of the women would take responsibility for their actions, Spenser really didn't have a job. But, he remained curious, over months. And, he admits, "I had kind of a bad feeling about this long-running mess I'd wandered into and hadn't done a hell of a lot to improve." As Gary, the women, and a couple enforcers continue to pop in to Spenser's office, he worries that things will take a turn for the worse. It's the knight in him. "I feel a little silly saying it. But...right now everything is coming out badly for pretty much everyone involved....I'd like to make everything come out okay."

That's Spenser, the character I've grown to love, the one who wants "to make everything come out okay." There's not much action in The Professional. There's conversations, friendship, and complicated relationships. But, there's Spenser, a character with a code of conduct, who wants everything to be right in the world.

Robert B. Parker's website is

The Professional by Robert B. Parker. G.P. Putnam's Sons, ©2009. ISBN 9780399155949 (hardcover), 289p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I haven't read Parker for a long time, but I love Spenser. Thanks for the reminder of his wonderful books--I need to rediscover them. Ages ago, I was also a fan of "Spenser for Hire" (late 80s?) but the books--as always--were so much better.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Kaye said...

I haven't read Parker for a long time either and I'm not really sure why I drifted away from him as I do love his characters, especially Hawk and Jesse Stone. We need more Spensers in the world!

Great review, as always. Thanks! Have a good weekend and happy reading.

Lesa said...

Elizabeth - Like you, I was a fan of Spenser for Hire, and that's still how I picture both Spenser and Hawk.

Lesa said...


You probably drifted away from them because so little happens as to a mystery plot. But, this is one of the few series in which I'm OK with just reading for the characters and wordplay. I would have totally dropped most series by now.

Kay said...

I've never read a Parker book. I keep meaning to. I have liked the Jesse Stone movies with Tom Selleck. But what's not to liked there? :-)

Guess I need to add another series to my endless list.

Belle said...

You've said it so well, Lesa - it's the characters that keep me coming back to Spenser. I just like the Spenser so much, and his relationship with Hawk and Susan. The rest of the story is like gravy.

Lesa said...

And, I never liked the Jesse Stone books, Kay, because he felt like a poor imitation of Spenser. I read a few more Sunny Randall books, but she seems as if she's just Spenser in high heels. So, I stick to the original one I love.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Belle. The characters are the best reason to return to the Spenser books, aren't they?

Liz said...

My mom and brother hate Susan Silverman and the dog, and they both say Parker has really gone downhill. I see their point, but I keep coming back! And wy only one Jesse Stone book? I enjoy those as well. All that said, there are so many trails of characters that go across the series. For example, the inability of the main character to let go of an old love (Spenser and Silverman/Jesse and his ex-wife, Sunny and her ex-husband).

And all THAT said, I'm on hold for this one already...

Lesa said...

Liz, I see their point as well, but I don't care. I love Spenser, Hawk, and the conversations in these books.

I didn't like the first Jesse Stone book I read. It felt too much like an imitation of Spenser. I was able to give Sunny a few more books since she was female, but I tired of her attachment to her ex.

Spenser is just satisfying to me.