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The Godwulf Manuscript

(Spenser #1)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  15,872 ratings  ·  972 reviews
Spenser earned his degree in the school of hard knocks, so he is ready when a Boston university hires him to recover a rare, stolen manuscript. He is hardly surprised that his only clue is a radical student with four bullets in his chest.
The cops are ready to throw the book at the pretty blond coed whose prints are all over the murder weapon but Spenser knows there are no
Mass Market Paperback, 208 pages
Published December 5th 2000 by Dell (first published June 2nd 1973)
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Harvey J Putterbaugh JD Robb (Nora Roberts) - "In Death" series - LT Eve Dallas
. Shares the repartee and cynicism, the crimes are well constructed and reported. Although s…more
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. Shares the repartee and cynicism, the crimes are well constructed and reported. Although set in 2060~ there is little futuristic components - there are off-planet populated "stations, moon" and like Star Trek, it doesn't get in the way, as it is set in a somewhat similar New York City. They are police stories.(less)

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Bill Kerwin
May 14, 2007 rated it really liked it

I hear this Ace Atkinson guy is good, but I can't bring myself to read a new Spenser now that Parker has died. Instead, I've decided to re-read the first dozen or so Spensers until gal-pal Susan starts annoying me again.

In this first mystery, Spenser is hired to find a medieval manuscript stolen from a university. Soon manuscript retrieval takes a back seat when one of the undergraduate radicals suspected of the theft is charged with murdering her boyfriend, and Spenser is convinced she has been
Jul 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Robert B. Parker’s The Professional last month and wrote a long review trashing him for ruining Spenser in the last half of his career. Parker died this week, and I feel like a jackass. He had provided me a lot of enjoyment over the years and had a lot to do with turning me into the crime-mystery fan I am today.

Plus, while reading the obits his death, and the high praise that was heaped on him by modern mystery writers for reviving the detective genre in the early ‘70, I remembered why I
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Spenser
Shelves: male-lead, mystery
Ah, the first Spenser mystery, the one to start a series of almost forty books in forty years. Having started it somewhat in the middle, I went back to the beginning to see where it all began. I found writing that appealed even more than mid-series when Parker had distilled his writing down to the bare bones. Though I'm a fan for the art of minimizing in my physical life, there's something to be said for richness in mood and setting, particularly in a mystery, and this supplies it in spades. It ...more
James Thane
Mar 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
"The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse."

Thus opens the novel that introduced Robert B. Parker's most famous creation, Boston P.I., Spenser. Spenser was a former cop who'd been fired for insubordination, and he was also a veteran of the Korean War. When The Godwulf Manuscript was published in 1973, he was apparently somewhere in his middle forties, which means that when Parker wrote his last contribution to the series in 2011, Spe
Dan Schwent
Apr 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
The Godwulf Manuscript has gone missing from the university and Spenser's been hired to find it. But what does the stolen and ransomed manuscript have to do with the murder of a dope dealer, seemingly by his girlfriend? And can Spenser figure out what is going on before being murdered himself?

This is the first Spenser book and quite a good read. While the story is called the Godwulf Manuscript, the aforementioned manuscript doesn't actually get that much action and is phased out pretty early. Th
Jason Koivu
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, crime, detective
Robert B. Parker's Spenser detective series kicks off very academically, literally. A valuable manuscript goes missing from a Boston university and Parker's hero Spenser is called in to investigate.

This gives Parker a chance to poke fun at stuffy academic types, while showing that Spenser isn't a total meathead himself. However, Spenser is a tough guy and when things get rough Spenser gets tough.

Things do get rough. The stolen manuscript turns into a bigger issue that Parker unfolds at a nice p
Mar 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another excellent novel by Parker. Spenser (spelled like the poet, with an 's', not a 'c') is a tough, noir detective. The plot had me guessing a fair amount & it was very well paced. Loved the ending. Well read, too. I'll look forward to more of these. ...more
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m officially ashamed to call myself a private detective/noir fan. I should be beaten, flogged, and taken out to pasture. I hadn’t heard of the Spenser series until last week when I was doing some deep digging on Amazon’s bestsellers lists. It may have turned into my favorite iteration of the private detective novel. It has the perfect combination of darkness and humor. My eyes start to well up when I start to think about this genre fading away. There’s something about the smart-ass, loner priv ...more
Patrick Sherriff
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-and-such
I picked this up at a secondhand bookshop last month and at first thought I'd stumbled onto a poor imitation of Raymond Chandler, complete with a bourbon-soaked wise-ass PI, dames in distress, and .45s singing like Philip Marlowe was alive and well. How derivative, my snooty wise-ass reviewer's voice began... but don't listen to him. What we have here is a loving homage to Chandler's creation. If you like hardboiled PIs for hire and you've read all Chandler published, why wouldn't you want to se ...more
May 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: series, fiction

The Hook - I’m a Robert Parker/Spencer virgin. Ace Atkins, who is the new voice of Spencer, was in my neck of the woods doing an author talk so I decided to begin the series at book one.

The Line”Insubordination. It’s one of my best things.”

The Sinker – This guy’s tough, one I’d call Mr. Spencer if I knew what was good for me. 195 lbs. coming at you with a power-horse of muscle and one whole lot of smart talk to go along with it. On top of this he cooks, delicious offerings, some gourmet, fast
Mar 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of hard-boiled detective fiction
Robert Parker is yet another author who I went about reading backwards, starting with his Everett Hitch & Virgil Cole westerns (which are awesome, by the way) instead of with Spenser, the detective that made him famous.

What actually drew me to read this book at this point in time was a review from Orson Scott Card recommending the latest Elvis Cole novel by Robert Crais -- a series and author I'd never read -- that also mentioned Parker and his detective Spenser. So I decided to read the both th
Jan 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ah-deadly
Spenser is officially my new favorite guy. He has everything I'm looking for in a private detective. He takes guff from no police lieutenant: "Quirk looked at me, then Belson . . . 'You're not working for the D.A. now, boy, you're working my side of the street, and if you get in the way I'll kick your ass right into the gutter. Got that?' 'Can I feel your muscle?' I said."

He's so tough he considers his bourbon cut with the addition of bitters or ice (I myself need a little water or, heaven forb
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it
"The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse."

That is one hell of a line to start your book off. It certainly sets a tone for our narrator, doesn't it?

Let's start off with a little background... not on the book, but on me. A week or so back I started reading the first of Parker’s Jesse Stone novels, and the reaction from a few of my friends was along the lines of “Why are you reading this when you haven’t read any of the Spencer novels
Marty Fried
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, audiobooks
I've heard of this series in the past, and thought it might be interesting to check it out. It's a bit old, but only a little dated which might be a minus for younger readers as there are some references that might be missed. No problem for me, of course.

It was a fairly fun read, very quick, and I was finished before I knew it. He's definitely a wise guy, but then again, so am I, so it was OK. I'll try to remember some of his quips. Like, "I made a bet with myself that ..., and I won."

He's a bit
Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
Well, I don't guess I'll be reading another Spencer book soon...but to be fair it may not be all "the book's" fault.

First I lived through the '70s and don't long for more of the shaggy clothed, self-righteous pan handlers who lived on their parent's income while cutting down the life style of people who are/were stupid enough to work for a living. I graduated in that generation and never quite fit in. I was too busy working.

Silly me.

Okay so Spencer doesn't suffer these fools gladly in this book
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was very, very impressed with this first Spenser book. My dad is a huge fan of Parker’s so I don’t know why I slept on this series for so long. I think I kind of wrote his stuff off after having to sit through the TV show as a kid, but I really enjoyed myself with this one. Spenser is super likable, tough as nails but still obviously a good guy and legitimately funny. A lot of characters in books I read come off as less funny than their authors seem to want them to be (as much as I like him, E ...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Dec 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Hard-boiled Mystery Fans
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
I didn't like Spenser, and that's a problem with a novel starting a series, one in a first person voice where Spenser is supposed to be your intimate guide into the story. If you don't like your narrator and protagonist, then you're going to need a really strong voice or plot or style or characterizations, and I didn't find that the case here.

I did rather enjoy the story in the beginning--it was published in 1973 and reading about the campus radicals, the hippies, the days where you called cops
Cathy DuPont
Oct 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really liked...first of Spenser novels. Curious though because Parker said in interview(s) later that he didn't create first name for Spenser. However, on page 87 of paperback, Spenser (as I read it) is called Jim by two cops escorting him from campus. Only reference to Spenser's first name. Perhaps Parker forgot that couple of paragraphs as years and books went by? Anyone else notice that?


Well, well, well. Before I started reading the Jim Spenser (sounds funny) and Hawk series,
Sebastien Castell
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I'd never read any of Robert B. Parker's novels about his wise-cracking private investigator, Spenser. However I'd recently noticed a mention of the fantasy author Steven Brust's style being likened to that of Robert B. Parter, so I wanted to give one a try.

First, I'm not sure I'd agree with the characterization of Brust being stylistically like Parker. Yes, both feature a certain noir-ish prose that has resonances with Hammett and Chandler, but Brust's Vlad Taltos tends to be a lot more interna
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Stubborn and cheeky to a fault, I can't help but think of Chandler's Philip Marlowe as I read this first Spenser story. Looking forward to more.
Mar 26, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed
Be warned: I am about to spoil the shit out of this book, so don’t read on if you’re not up for it.

The Godwulf Manuscript gets going when the president of a university in Boston — unnamed, but from context it’s probably BU — calls in private detective Spenser. A fourteenth-century illuminated manuscript has disappeared, and an anonymous caller has demanded $100,000 in ransom. This is a total giveaway — if “the university” were Harvard they’d fish the money out of their couch cushions and the boo
First Sentence: The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse.

Boston PI Spenser (with an “s” like the poet) has been hired by a university president to recover a 14th century illuminated manuscript. He is directed to a SCARE, the Student committee Against Capitalist Exploitation and Terry Orchard, one of the members, whom he finds along with her aggressive boyfriend, Dennis. Spenser receives a 2 a.m. call and finds Terry drugged. Dennis
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've been curious about the Spenser series for a long, long time. I wish I hadn't waited so long to read one. I really liked it. It's set in the 1970's. I smiled a lot at the descriptions of the clothes worn by college students and the dialogue, man! Everyone is "man." Lots of action, a tiny bit of very modestly described sex (which is good by me as I don't like too much sex in books). The plot was compelling and I loved Spenser. I will certainly continue the series and I won't be waiting long t ...more
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Being a PI seems to have been far more work before cellphones and the internet. This 70s PI series has been on my TBR list forever and I’m pleased it kicked off well. Story was good and suitably gritty, lead character was entertaining and has aged reasonably well (a couple of books from the same era haven’t appealed because the lead characters have a sexist dickhead vibe when read now).

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the rest of the series, and am particularly keen on seeing Ace
Mur Lafferty
Jul 17, 2012 rated it did not like it
Hey cookie, hey lovely, your thighs are lush, let me sleep with you, or maybe your daughter, but I'll be a gentleman and wait till NEXT chapter to plow her field. what, there's a macguffin that's missing? Let me insult everyone who could aid me and sleep with a few dames and I'll get it sorted out before the next broad spreads her legs for my incomprehensible sex appeal.

No, I didn't like it.
Doranna Durgin
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ahh, the first Spenser book. Heavily dated, but not in a way that affects the story; for me, it added to the story. And no one does dry dialogue like Robert Parker with Spenser!
Jan 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Spenser is hired by a Boston University to recover an ancient manuscript, the Godwulf Manuscript, that was stolen and ransomed. In the process of locating this manuscript, people start dying, and a young woman is set up to take the fall for at least one of these murders. The young woman's parents also hire Spenser to clear her of the murder charges.

I LOVED this novel. I love the plot, which was complex but didn't vear off into unnecessary subplots. I loved the dialogue. Spenser's wit is hysteric
Bill Lynas
Sep 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Private Eye Spenser makes his first appearance in this witty thriller from Robert B Parker. The story was written (& is set in) the early 1970s & world weary Parker speaks his mind at every opportunity. This allows for some sharp & highly amusing dialogue throughout the story. This may be the first Spenser novel I've read, but it won't be the last. ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970s, mys, new-england
Parker's Spenser provided so many hours of enjoyable reading.
Didn't read this one first.
Would re-read it first.
Deserves 5-star for beginning an exceptional series
Fair to call it a classic?
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New Spenser Stories 37 82 Nov 02, 2014 09:27PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues (Jesse Stone, #10)
  • Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice (Jesse Stone, #11)
  • Robert B. Parker's Debt to Pay (Jesse Stone, #15)
  • Robert B. Parker's Colorblind (Jesse Stone #17)
  • Robert B. Parker's Damned If You Do (Jesse Stone, #12)
  • Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot (Jesse Stone, #13)
  • Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet (Jesse Stone, #16)
  • Robert B. Parker's The Devil Wins (Jesse Stone, #14)
  • The Monkey's Raincoat (Elvis Cole, #1)
  • Robert B. Parker's The Bitterest Pill (Jesse Stone, #18)
  • The Deep Blue Good-By (Travis McGee, #1)
  • Poodle Springs
  • Fair Warning (Jack McEvoy #3)
  • Rules of Prey (Lucas Davenport, #1)
  • Wolf, No Wolf (Gabriel Du Pre #3)
  • Robert B. Parker's Blood Feud (Sunny Randall, #7)
  • El circo del miedo
  • Motor City Blue (Amos Walker, #1)
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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 48 books)
  • 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)
  • Valediction (Spenser, #11)

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