Spotsalots's Reviews > Painted Ladies

Painted Ladies by Robert B. Parker
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May 29, 2011

bookshelves: fiction, mystery

Another mystery from the book exchange table. I had read a few of Parker's Spenser novels years ago, and generally enjoyed them; on the whole I enjoyed this one as well, perhaps partly because it has an art history angle. At the same time, I had a bit of a feeling that the author was really churning this out at the end of his life. All of the dialog is brief exchanges and quips; while I like that kind of thing, it has to be balanced with some longer sentences. Here it gave me the feeling that Parker had done it to get to the end of the book in a hurry. The investigation of the murdered art historian felt a bit the same--hurried and relatively depthless. Sure, we found out that he was an expert who for reasons never explained stayed at a school without a top-rate art history department (no academic would really be that baffled by that--we go where we're offered jobs and while some people move up to more prestigious schools, very often people stay where they land). Sure, we also found out that he was an easy grader who habitually slept with female students--well, why would a top school want to take that on? The art heist involved, while interesting, was never fully elucidated and I was left unsure precisely what prompted the murder, and for that matter why the murderers were so remarkably bloodthirsty and able to recruit so many hired killers given that the main interests of said killer(s) would rarely lead to even accidental death. Oh, and Spenser has acquired a girlfriend (I don't recall her from previous books) whose presence prompts excessive description of their meals, and whose dog's love life fortuitously helps provide clues to the murder, which I felt was really stretching things. Basically, nearly everyone Spenser met in the course of the book proved to know either the victim or the killer, no matter whether they worked in insurance or what.

I suppose it's a tribute to Parker's skills as an author that the book is readable and mostly enjoyable despite all of the flaws and irritations listed above.
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