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Paper Doll (Spenser #20)

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,699 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
She was a model wife and mother, bludgeoned with a hammer on the streets of Beacon Hill. Spenser's searching for a motive and a murderer--and finding more secrets than meet the eye...
ebook, 288 pages
Published April 1st 1994 by Berkley Books (first published 1993)
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Apparently the years of drinking improperly distilled corn liquor have caused more damage than I thought because I had previously rated this as one star and marked it as the place the Spenser series went off the rails. Actually, it’s not that bad at all.

Olivia Nelson was the wife of Boston blue blood Loudon Tripp and they seemed to have a textbook family and a perfect life until Olvia screwed it up by getting whackity-whacked with a hammer to the noggin while walking down the street. With no obv
Apr 20, 2012 Ashley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
First let me get a few things out of the way. This is a book from 1994. I found it on the book exchange shelf at work and decided to check it out since I was between books. It is also #20 in a series of books about a Private Detective named Spenser although that really doesn’t matter as it was pretty clear each book easily stands on its own.

The general plotline is…Olivia Nelson is the perfect wife to a perfect husband and together they have a perfect marriage. This perfect couple had two perfect
Feb 24, 2012 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: robertbparker
Wow. Maybe the best Spenser book I've read. His characters had depth and complexity. The murderer could only have been found by the incredible Spenser. As always, good dialogue.

a few comparisons that I savored:

a fireplace spacious enough to roast a moose.

a receptionist with the efficiency of a Russian farm collective.

blue jeans as capacious as Delaware.
Stephen Mettee
Nov 19, 2014 Stephen Mettee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chewing gum for the mind.

As I was digging into my boxes and boxes of books stored two moves ago, I ran across this 1993 Spenser novel. I thought I'd read every one of Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels, but I hadn't read this one.

Would have liked more of Susan and Hawk, but still a great and easy read.Four stars.

It is interesting to note that the copy I have is a first printing that had been remaindered. (Sent back to the publisher unsold and then "remaindered" to a dealer to be sold at a dis

Apr 24, 2015 Trisha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good fun little P.I. book. I loved the ridiculous one-liners, the silly slang and banter. The outrageous police and security brutality and the dirty playing. It was all so funny and enthralling. This held my attention. I'm sad #20 something is the first book in this series I'm trying out. I didn't feel like NOT having read the first books in the series held me back at all.

His relationship with his girlfriend was interesting too. I like that, although he seemed to objectify every other woman in t
Spenser is hired by a wealthy, old-money, high society widower to solve who bludgeoned to death his too-perfect wife (clue #1). Not finding clues in her current life, Spenser tracks back to her Southern roots looking for possible clues in her past. Her husband and two adult children believe her parents are dead and have never met any of her relatives (clue #2). When Spenser arrives in her hometown, the authorities forcefully try to stop him from investigating (clue #3). Then his retainer check b ...more
Kevin Doyle
Jun 09, 2014 Kevin Doyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one is a rarity among Parker's Spenser books. Don't get me wrong, I think most of his books are great. However, like a lot of people, they really don't do much in the mystery end of things. Action yarns, check. Character studies, absolutely. Fun, quick reads, most of them. Actual mysteries, not usually so much.

But with Paper Doll, Parker presents an actual mystery for his PI to solve, and he does so in layers. Most readers will no doubt easily figure out the true identity of the victim ear
Apr 02, 2015 Marti rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
She was the perfect wife and mother, but someone had bludgeoned her to death. Then it turned out that she had a doppelganger--someone who looked just like her, who had married an African in his native country. This book is quite a conundrum for Spenser, who ends up in jail in South Carolina briefly. A US Senator is involved, as well.
Apr 27, 2009 Joy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

What a refreshing book, even though it showed a dark side of the politial world. There were lots of quotable gems. Spenser:
"I am trustworthy, loyal, and helpful. But I struggle with obedient."
Fun: "How old were you when you dropped out of charm school?"
Observation: "If he really saw me at all, it was peripherally. In his
public self he probably saw everything peripherally. His focus was on him." Observation of Susan: One of the many things about Susan that I
admired was that she never made convers
Doug Willstead
Jul 29, 2015 Doug Willstead rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read for pleasure and Robert B. Parker has
give me 42 doses of pleasure so far.
This one is filled with familiar characters
I have grown to think of as neighbors and friends
as I get sucked into another twisting plot.
Just great fun.
Oct 30, 2015 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not one of my favorites...they can't all be solid gold hits! Good story, but little interaction with Hawk and Spenser we not his wise self.
Feb 13, 2013 Yeva rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could not find a writer I like more than Robert B. Parker. I found this book the other day at the library, and I did not remember reading it. This thrilled me, because I've not read one of Mr. Parker's book in quite some time. Paper Doll is a great story. It was definitely interesting, and I liked reading about my favorite characters again. Farrell is introduced in this book, and Spenser was considerate and a good friend, as Farrell went through the death of his partner. Spenser is such a mult ...more
Colin Beckett
Jul 13, 2016 Colin Beckett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First off, let me state that I am a huge fan of the late, great, Robert B. Parker. His books have entertained me since 2008, and re-reading "Paper Doll" was a treat. Parker's last completed Spenser book printed before his death entitled, "Six Kill," was 293 pages long. Most of the pages were filled with white space and the story relied heavily on dialogue, as the majority of Parker's works did from the last decade of his life. Not so with the 170 page "Paper Doll." The prose is witty and sharp. ...more
Jan 06, 2016 Jerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We’re fans of Parker’s prolific, 39-book private-eye Spenser series – even though, to be honest, they are all pretty similar. Spenser gets a case, shakes the trees until some leaves start falling, follows those clues to some sort of logical resolution; and finally justice mostly prevails. Best friend Hawk provides muscle against oppositional thuggery when needed, while lover Susan provides (sometimes tiresome) “distractions”, and, as a professional psychologist, provides insightful dialogue here ...more
Jul 06, 2014 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Spenser books are like comfort food for me. I've read this book countless times, but I picked it up again this weekend for a much-needed diversion. Parker is a master of the snappy dialogue and fast-paced plot. I've yet to read a true clunker in this series.

I last rated this back in 2008, as happens occasionally, I've been on a Spenser kick and am rereading many in the series.
Jun 24, 2015 Dee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
Spenser is hired by Boston Brahmin Loudon Tripp to find the murderer of his conventionally impeccable wife, Olivia Nelson, whom the police consider a victim of random urban violence. After consulting with the police detective assigned to the case, a gay man whose lover is dying of AIDS, Spenser travels to Olivia's hometown in South Carolina, where his questions land him in jail, uncharged, and at the mercy of some Northern thugs. Rescued at the last minute by Boston police Lt. Quirk, the burly d ...more
Mar 04, 2015 Megargee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic Spenser that involves an actual mystery or two. Unlike the later years when Spenser's MO was simply annoy everybody until the bad guys tried to off him, whereupon he would call for Hawk and blow them all away, this one actually had a plot in addition to the vintage Spenser dialog. Hawk has only a minor role and Paul is absent but there is lots of badinage and canoodling with Susan. There is also a large canine cast, including, of course, Pearl the wonder dog, whose mission in life is ...more
Connie N.
#20 in the Spenser series. Very quick, light read, in Spenser's usual amusing and easy-going style. He is a less intense with this one than he is sometimes. He and Susan are happily together, there's a brief interaction with Hawk (always a good thing), and more-than-usual connection with Quirk (also a good thing). In this case, Spenser looks into the death of a society woman, learning more about her "perfect" family and the secrets hidden behind the façade. His visit to South Carolina results in ...more
Larry Marshall
May 31, 2011 Larry Marshall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Robert Parker is my favorite mystery author. In memory to him I'm re-reading his Spenser series. I won't review them as they've been around for a long time but they're great, every time I read them.
Shirley Worley
Spenser is hired by Boston aristocrat Loudon Tripp to find his wife's killer after the police deem the murder at a stand still. Digging deep, Spenser quickly realizes that Tripp's idealized view of his picture-perfect wife, picture-perfect kids, and picture-perfect life are anything but. Even the recently departed Olivia Tripp is not who or what she appears on the surface. Spenser uncovers an affair with a politician, a small town scandal, once wealthy family that are now bankrupt, and a child w ...more
What can you say about a writer who can conjure up the likes of Spenser as well as Hawk. Their repartee is the hook and the plots and additional characters reel you in. Anyone who has lived in Boston will particularly enjoy the settings and characters. I am trying to finish up reading every single one of the Spenser series. Almost done!
May 25, 2015 Mei rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Another easy to read chapter in the Spenser universe. I enjoy reading these - current favourite is trying to spot the various literary, lyrical and other references in Spenser's snappy one-liners and comebacks. Aside from that the 'crime' in this one is almost secondary in comparison to others.
Apr 25, 2016 Margaret rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This may have been my favorite Spenser novel to date. This one has Spenser hired to find the killer of an upperclass Boston woman and follows him untangling quite a web of deceit that extends back to her SC home and insinuates itself through the MA political scene. Issues of race and sexual orientation are tastefully addressed throughout. And the final scenes provide a couple of surprises.
Douglas Karlson
Jul 17, 2016 Douglas Karlson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this one... I think the earlier Spencer novels (this is really a novella) are the best, and this one was earlyish... more carefully written and plotted than some of the later ones (is that terrible to say, after all, it's Robert B. Parker.) Anyway, a good read.
Sean Huxter
May 02, 2016 Sean Huxter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid Spenser

Weirdly, though, this one had me reminisching about the original Fletch book. Spenser goes south to a small town, and some things happen in this book that happened in a similar way in "Fletch", done many years earlier.

Still a good Spenser outing.
Mar 11, 2016 Ed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
#20 in the Spenser series.

#20 Spenser novel - The murdered wife of a Boston aristocrat seemed to be perfect, but she wasn't who she seemed to be. Spenser travels to SC to dig into her past; his investigation is hampered by a liberal, hard-drinking MA senator.
Mar 03, 2014 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining as all Parker's books have been so far with the twist at the end. This isn't his best only because it wasn't as sharp I felt some of the mysteries weren't revealed and the murder victims motives not as clear.
Gee. I finished it ten days ago. Now I can't remember what it was about. That's a bad sign. No wait -- I remember. Spenser looks for the murderer of a society matron, and finds that all is not as it seems...
Donna Chrum
Always entertaining! What I really like about the Spenser series is that I don't feel like I'm reading the same "formula" over and over again, even though I'm up to about book #18(??) of the series.
Aug 14, 2010 Chuck rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
55 out of 100 for 2010

Spenser is hired by a prominent Bostonian named Tripp to find out who killed his wife. The police have no clues; the killing seems a truly senseless act. Spenser begins looking into the woman's past, and there is much to learn, including the fact that she quite literally is not who she says she is . . . a US Senator is brought low.

The most interesting thing about the book is that it introduces Lee Farrell, a tough, competent gay cop who comes to figure prominently in the S
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database named Robert B. Parker.
Robert Brown Parker was an American crime writer. His most famous works were the novels about the private detective Spenser. ABC television network developed the television series Spenser: For Hire based on the character in the late 1980s; a series of TV movies based on the character were also produced.
More about Robert B. Parker...

Other Books in the Series

Spenser (1 - 10 of 44 books)
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  • God Save The Child (Spenser, #2)
  • Mortal Stakes (Spenser, #3)
  • Promised Land (Spenser, #4)
  • The Judas Goat (Spenser, #5)
  • Looking For Rachel Wallace (Spenser, #6)
  • Early Autumn (Spenser, #7)
  • A Savage Place (Spenser, #8)
  • Ceremony (Spenser, #9)
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“SUSAN AND I made love at her house, we had to shut Pearl the wonder dog out of the bedroom, because if we didn’t, Pearl would attempt tirelessly to insinuate herself between us. Neither” 0 likes
“Please send me a bill for your services through”—he looked at his watch—“through today,” he said. “And you’ll pay it with a rubber check,” I said.” 0 likes
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