Kemper's Reviews > Crimson Joy

Crimson Joy by Robert B. Parker
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Jul 02, 2008

it was ok
bookshelves: crime-mystery, detectives, serial-killers, spenser

Serial killers are the cockroaches of crime fiction. No matter how many you see, there’s always a million more. Even Robert B. Parker doing his updated version of old school detective novels with Spenser couldn’t escape the siren call of doing a book about a wacko murderer back in the ‘80s when the serial-killer-as-villain took over the genre.

A psycho has been killing black women and leaving a red rose with the bodies. Spenser’s police buddy, Quirk, gets a letter from the killer claiming that he is a cop so he’d like to get some help from outside the Boston PD. Spenser joins the investigation, but things get strange when someone breaks into Susan’s house and leaves a red rose. Is the killer one of her psychiatric patients? The whole issue gives Spenser and Susan an ethical dilemma between her need to protect patient confidentiality against figuring out if the murderer is among them.

This is a very ‘meh’ Spenser book for me. Most serial killer stories bore me to tears these days, and the series was always at it’s best when Spenser goes up against plain old criminals. The killer is one of the ‘80’s style villains that was extremely common. He’s got a distinct signature, a pattern that he never breaks, and a domineering mother to give him an instant pop psychology motive.

The conflict between Susan’s ethical issues as a therapist, and Spenser’s concern for her safety is mildly interesting, but the two have started to get very smug about their happy relationship. They almost break their arms patting themselves on the back for the way they handle it with a minimum of friction to each other.

Probably the most entertaining aspect is when Spenser goes on a talk-radio show to try and draw the killer out and spends a painful hour listening to every moron in the Boston area call in with their misinformed opinions and dumbass theories. Spenser decides that the whole concept is ‘a forum for public masturbation’. It’s amazing how big the forum got over the next couple of decades.

There’s also a funny footnote in this era of CSI. Even though the killer leaves semen at his crime scenes and it’s analyzed for blood type, DNA is never mentioned once. How was anyone ever caught before the popularization of the lab geek as hero?

Next up: Spenser shoots some hoops as well as criminals in Playmates.
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by James (new)

James Thane I completely agree with your comment about the Spenser/Susan relationship. It gets to a point sometimes where you just want to scream "Get over yourselves!"


Kemper James wrote: "I completely agree with your comment about the Spenser/Susan relationship. It gets to a point sometimes where you just want to scream "Get over yourselves!""

Yeah, they're really starting to enter that phase. Ugh.


message 3: by Cera (new) - rated it 1 star

Cera This is the one book I didn't manage to reread my last time through the series (which was several years ago now) because the whole 'menace the woman to create tension' thing made me want to throw the book across the room. Susan freaked out earlier about defining herself in relationship to men, yet she can't take any steps for self-protection? Yeesh.


Kemper Cera wrote: "This is the one book I didn't manage to reread my last time through the series

This one is definately way down the list of quality Spenser books.


Bill  Kerwin Kemper wrote: "Cera wrote: "This is the one book I didn't manage to reread my last time through the series

This one is definately way down the list of quality Spenser books."


I liked this one more than you did, particularly because I thought the Spenser/Susan stuff was interesting for a change. But I agree completely about serial killers.

By the way, you are better versed in the mystery genre than I am. When did this serial killer business start and with what? One-off thrillers made into movies? Movies themselves?


message 6: by Kemper (last edited Feb 13, 2017 11:56AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kemper Bill wrote: "When did this serial killer business start and with what? One-off thrillers made into movies? Movies themselves?

I'm sure this wasn't the first, but I think that Thomas Harris' Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs really kicked off the serial killer wave we saw in the '80s & '90s. RD and the film version Manhunter popularized the idea of the lone detective who hunts the serial killer by thinking like them. And of course Silence really brought Hannibal into the mainstream so that ever suspense thriller in print and film were trying to come up with their own version of Insane McGenuis murderers.


message 8: by Tim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tim Man, the film version of Manhunter left me unable to sleep for several nights..


William The Robert & Joan Parker saga makes this book far more than it seems.


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