Kemper's Reviews > Small Vices

Small Vices by Robert B. Parker
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Apr 01, 12

bookshelves: crime-mystery, detectives, 2012-reread, spenser

This is one of those books that gives me a dilemma when it comes to reviewing it because the major event in this one doesn’t occur until well into the story so it seems like some kind of spoiler warning is in order. However, that event is described in the book jacket and even in the plot summary on Goodreads so I’m not exactly giving away the ending of The Sixth Sense. Hell, I guess since no one else worried about it, I won’t either. You have been warned.

Spenser gets hired by attorney and old friend Rita Fiore to look into Ellis Alves. Rita was the prosecutor when Alves, a black man, was charged with killing a white college girl, and Rita got him sent to prison without breaking a sweat. Now working for a high priced law firm, Rita has become worried that Alves might have been innocent, and that his race and an inexperienced defense attorney may have allowed her to wrongly convict him.

Spenser begins investigating and quickly decides that Alves was framed, and the trail leads to the college tennis star who has a wealthy family. A formidable hitman who dresses all in gray suddenly appears and warns Spenser off. The Gray Man (as Spenser dubs him) seems like such a threat that he calls in almost every tough guy he knows to guard Susan, but Spenser continues working the case. So the Gray Man kills him.

Yep, poor old Spenser gets shot full of holes, falls off a bridge into an icy river, and his heart stops. After being saved by modern medical science, zombie Spenser faces a long and painful rehab with the help of Hawk and Susan while almost everyone else thinks he's dead. Can Spenser recover, find the Gray Man and get Alves freed from prison? Come on, it’s Spenser! Anybody really have any doubt how this is gonna play out?

This could have been a major book in the series and possibly injected some fresh life into it’s later years. There’s a lot of potential for intriguing drama with the idea of a macho tough guy like Spenser being badly injured, and the rehab stuff does make for a nice break from the routine with the usually ultra-confident and physically fit Spenser struggling to walk up a hill and having to spend countless hours learning how to punch and shoot all over again.

But once he’d brought his hero low, Parker couldn’t wait to build him back up again. I’m not saying that he should have put Spenser in a wheelchair for the remainder of the series, but the entire shooting, rehab, resolving the case and dealing with the Gray Man occurs in the second half of the book. Maybe stretching the storyline through a couple of books would have given it more weight and allowed some deeper exploration of what being that badly hurt would do to someone like Spenser. Instead, Parker mostly bypasses that idea in his rush to get Spenser back to his old self as soon as possible.

Oh, and as usual Susan is being annoying. This time she’s nagging Spenser to adopt and raise a child with her. Yawn.

This is still a good Spenser story, but it’s always seemed like a lot of potential was wasted here. This could have been a watershed event that shaped and defined Spenser for the remainder of the series, but instead it becomes just another obstacle for him to overcome with no real lasting effects.

Next up: Spenser meets Susan’s ex-husband in Sudden Mischief. Yeah, it’s a book heavy on the Susan. *sigh*
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Bill  Kerwin For years, I kept hoping that Parker would kill off Susan, but--alas!--it was not to be.


Kemper Bill wrote: "For years, I kept hoping that Parker would kill off Susan, but--alas!--it was not to be."

I'm personally hoping that Ace Atkins will kill her off once he takes over the series.


Dina Guys, women read Parker, too, and Susan's character and concerns are of interest to us, or at least to one of us. Glad there are men out there who aren't intimidated by an educated woman. And, one of the things I love about Parker is the relentless pacing. I couldn't wait for the rehab section to be over to get to the resolution of the story.


Kemper Dina wrote: "Guys, women read Parker, too, and Susan's character and concerns are of interest to us, or at least to one of us. Glad there are men out there who aren't intimidated by an educated woman. And, one ..."

I don't hate Susan because she's an educated female character. I hate her because she's an annoying high maintenance pain in the ass, and the smug satisfaction that she and Spenser take in their relationship gives me a stomach ache.

I have no problems with strong women characters in crime fiction. I like 'em. Karen Sisco, Clarice Starling, Lisbeth Salander, Angie Gennaro, and Ree Dolly just to name a few.

But thanks for making assumptions...


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