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