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(Spenser #18)

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  4,812 ratings  ·  196 reviews
Pastime is a startling game of memory, desire, and danger that forces Spenser to face his own past. Ten years ago, he saved a teenage boy from a father's rage. Now, on the brink of manhood, the boy seeks answers to his mother's sudden disapearance. Spenser is the only man he can turn to.
This time, it's more than a routine search for a missing person--Spenser must search hi
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 1st 1992 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published 1991)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  4,812 ratings  ·  196 reviews

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Bobby Underwood
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
It had been a long spell since I’d read this entry in the Spenser canon, and while there are some great things about it, I found it less appealing this time around. The highlight, of course, is the expanding role of Vinnie in the Spenser world. Circumstances allow him to shift from being the dangerous right hand of Joe Broz, to the dangerous anti-hero when those circumstances force him to finally make the break from the gangster who has been almost like a father to him. It is the “almost” that c ...more
Bill Kerwin
Apr 24, 2017 rated it really liked it

This unique novel in the series offers special pleasures for the Spenser fan. In it, we are privileged to receive rare glimpses into Spenser’s past: his mother’s death in childbirth, his upbringing (by his father and two uncles), how he learned to cook, how he met Hawk (an opponent in the prizefighting ring), and a wonderful story about how he, and his first dog named Pearl, faced down a hostile black bear.

All this nostalgia has its origin in Spenser’s current case. Paul Giacomin—the neglected t
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
If the Spenser books were a comic series, the cover on this one would say something like: AT LAST! SPENSER’S SECRET ORIGIN REVEALED!

Back in Early Autumn, Spenser helped a teenage boy named Paul gain a measure of independence and control over his own life and in the process became his surrogate father. Paul is now twenty-five and had been trying to resolve some of the issues with his mother, Patty, but when she suddenly disappears Paul asks Spenser for help in locating her.

Spenser and Paul figure
Karl Jorgenson
Jul 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is well into Parker's (and Spenser's) career. It has the usual noir feel with the usual suspicious underworld characters who try to push Spenser around at their peril. Parker's plots are simple and straightforward, the suspense and ultimate satisfaction coming from the fact that Spenser doesn't know what's going on at the beginning, and we share his journey of discovery as he uncovers the crimes and the criminals.
But this book, and maybe all of Parker's work, is really and fundamentall
(The word "maroon" appears 7 times in this novel)

I was appalled at the first chapter, so saccharin sweet and twee, silly, almost baby talk. Authors must remember we are not their babies or their pets. Chapters 1-6 are very poor, dull, no plot advancement at all. Skip them if you want.

The rest of the book is fine but not special. Reasonable plot.

Spenser and Susan have stablised for now.

Modest snappiness in dialogue.
Jason Koivu
Jan 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, detective
Wow, there was some surprisingly lyrical writing in this one! That's pretty impressive considering this is the 18th book in the series. Parker was chucking these out one-per-year, while publishing other series books, and yet he managed to make parts of Pastime sing! ...more
Kurt Dinan
Oct 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorites, but possibly a little too much of Spenser wandering in the woods.
Nov 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Robert B Parker must have fallen in love or had something really emotional happen in is life which would cause him to write this book. This was a good one, however, it wasn't like the other books. Paul appears in this one. His mother has disappeared and he asks Spenser to help find her. The mob is involved and the search becomes really tricky and dangerous for Spenser.
Susan's ex-husband has given Susan his dog Pearl. Pearl has befriended Spenser and accompanies him wherever he goes.
Hawk makes a
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
The 18th in the Spenser series. A search for a missing mother ties in with the local gangsters, with a side trip down memory lane to Spenser's roots. ...more
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-read
Half the appeal of the Spenser series, for me, is just hanging out in our titular hero's company. I love his one-liners and his occasional words of wisdom; I love it when he beats up bad guys, sometimes just for the hell of it. I even love hearing about what he's cooking while he's in the kitchen mulling over a case. Occasionally though, Robert B Parker would get the urge to dive a bit deeper, and that is the case here. It's very welcome, and comes just when it was needed; the series had been on ...more
Paula Dembeck
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In this addition to the series, Parker pulls a few narrative threads from the past to present a case which explores the meaning of family and the complicated relationships which define it.

Back in the novel titled Early Autumn (1980), readers were introduced to fifteen year old Paul Giacomin, a young boy caught in the middle of an ugly feud between his divorcing parents, neither of who cared for him. Spenser took him away from that discouraging environment, gave him shelter and helped him unders
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. The description of the woods as Spenser fights for his life, the unerring loyalty he feels for Paul, and the way Spenser lets Paul be himself as he grows into his adulthood were absolutely all they needed to be. In this story, Spenser is totally himself and self-reliant but still he needs Susan and what their relationship has to offer - not to be himself but to complete himself.

I never tire of this series or any of Mr. Parker's stories. He was a wonderful writer, an
Scott A. Miller
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Paul G. got to headline this one, and Gerry Broz. The main crew were supporting cast. It was very good. Spenser really showed compassion and self control at the end. I’m not sure it won’t come back to haunt him. Pearl is the newest member of the family. The fact that Spenser is a dog lover makes him even more likable.
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Parker has a knack of telling sometimes great stories about Spenser and Hawk and Paul and Joe and Vinnie and others, with atmosphere and deep character, without that nagging suspense but rather with such confidence that you can enjoy the chase.
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is likely the most revealing of the Spenser novels, we not only learn a great deal about his childhood, but also discover that not even Susan knows much about his past. We learn that Spenser grew up in an all-male household by men that did not have a lot of formal education but appreciated it more than most in that situation.
We also learn about the hunter’s code when Spenser recounts the encounter that he and his father had with a bear while hunting birds. It was a father-son bonding mom
Michael McCue
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
In the 18th Spenser mystery by Robert Parker problems are somewhat solved and the bad guys are sort of defeated. Paul Giacomin, who is the closest thing Spenser has to a son, arrives with a problem. His mother has disappeared. Spenser does not like Patty, Paul's mother, at all. Ten years before Paul was in the middle of a big divorce fight between his parents. Spenser rescued him from his parents and gave Paul the parenting that he would never get otherwise. Patty, who is never without a man, ha ...more
Carolyn (in SC) C234D
This Spenser novel covers his growing up, giving some background. He’s trying to find a young man’s mother, who has apparently taken off with her boyfriend.
I read it more than fourteen years ago and don’t really remember any details. At the time I rated it 8 out of 10.
Redwan Hasan
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Another disappointing book. I was here for a detective novel not this thing.
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parker, mystery
The book was entertaining. A good mystery while we follow Spenser find someone. It gets complicated of course. The ending with Joe and his kid was kind of sappy and the all the philosophizing between Spenser and Susan was a bit much at the end. So only 4 stars instead of 5. But still a good read.
Rose Blum
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When Spencer met the new Pearl & Vinnie quite working for Joe ~ historical stuff. I absolutely love this story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)
Jerry B
Feb 10, 2016 rated it liked it
“Pastime”, Parker’s 18th novel in the 39-book Spenser set, seems a little ho-hum for a while. Spenser’s informally-adopted son Paul Giacomin {see #7, “Early Autumn”}, now 25 and soon to be married, is upset that he can’t find his mother. He asks Spenser to help out, but their search goes nowhere until they find out about her latest boyfriend, Richard Beaumont, who it turns out was a “bagman” (cash collector) for the mob family headed by Joe Broz. So when Spenser’s search focuses on Beaumont, tha ...more
Gloria ~ mzglorybe
May 02, 2017 rated it liked it
#18 in the Spenser series, though my husband and I are not reading them in order, we can enjoy them just the same. They are short fast reads, and we like Spenser's glib sense of humor, his choices and descriptions of the food they eat and the drinks he orders. We have a list going of what we want to try. We also admire his tenacity in giving his best shot at whatever case he has taken on. For those of you who may not know, Spenser is a P.I. known by many in the Boston area where he lives with hi ...more
My progress in finishing off this series is moving more slowly as my work is getting in the way of evening and weekend reading time. That said, REALLY -- n Pastime, Robert Parker brings back Paul Giacomin and his uninteresting mother Patty from Early Autumn. The further I go into this series, the more I find past clients showing up repeatedly. However, in the end, the relationships between the head of a Boston criminal enterprise, Joe, his son Gerry, and Joe's kingpin enforcer, Vinnie, who sees ...more
Brent Soderstrum
Oct 26, 2016 rated it liked it
In my trek to read all of the Spenser novels by Robert B. Parker I just finished #18 Pastime. There really isn't much to this book. Paul is back in Spenser's life because he wants Spenser to find his mom who is missing. This is the same mother who treated him so poorly in a previous book that Spenser basically became a surrogate father to Paul. Paul also got a lot of psychological help due to his treatment by both his parents.

Spenser finds Paul's mom and that is really it for the main adventure.
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Continuing with the Spenser books, I am up to Pastime, which tells some of Spenser's earlier life. Paul wants to locate his mother, so Spenser helps and they get into trouble with mob guys, who want to kill Paul and Spenser. There is one scene in the woods where the bad guys could have shot Pearl, the dog, but they don't. Of course, we know that Pearl continues on for a while. ...more
Jeff Yoak
Though I found the attempt to plumb Spenser's past a little shallow, this was a typically strong story overall. I loved pulling Paul back into the forefront, and Susan and Hawk are amazing as always. Nearly 20 books in, this series is as strong as ever! ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s wonderful to to find a book by an author that you love that you some how missed... This is the book that Pearl comes into the picture (and we learn how she got her name). I enjoyed this book very much.
Jay Welch
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: home-library
Two good things pop up in this book. Pearl becomes a part of the Spenser world and there is some history given about how Spenser grew up. Both of these add to a fairly typical story of guns, mob guys and violence.
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Like the series, characters with character (because they have some) & plots. Recommended.

Re-reading ...
Dana Vance
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my most favorite Spenser books--gives a lot of back story, helps us understand a little more about why Spenser is the way he is. And we get Pearl for the first time! What's not to love!!! ...more
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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.

Other books in the series

Spenser (1 - 10 of 49 books)
  • The Godwulf Manuscript (Spenser, #1)
  • 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)
  • The Widening Gyre (Spenser, #10)

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“Pearl was hurring around my apartment, sniffing everything, including Rich Beaumont and Patty Giacomin, which neither of them like much.

"Can you get Pearl to settle down?" Paul asked.

"I could speak to her, but she'd continue to do what she wants, and I'd look ineffectual. My approach is to endorse everything she does."

Susan said, "Come here, Pearl." And Pearl went over to her, and Susan gave her a kiss on the mouth, and Pearl wagged her tail; and lapped Susan's face, and turned and went back and sniffed at Patty.”
“I always loved it when I had a story to tell her, because her attention was complete and felt like sunlight.” 4 likes
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