Kemper's Reviews > Painted Ladies

Painted Ladies by Robert B. Parker
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's review
Nov 26, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: crime-mystery, detectives, spenser

Robert B. Parker died almost a year ago, but from what I’ve read Painted Ladies is the first of two unpublished Spenser novels that he had completed. Plus, considering Parker’s output, who knows how many books from his other three series may come out? It seems like Parker’s literary ghost will be with us for some time to come. Considering how much bitching I’ve done about his later work, I was a bit conflicted over whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. However, I was pleasantly surprised that Painted Ladies is one of the better Spenser novels to come out in years.

Ashton Prince is an art expert who has been hired by a museum to help arrange the return of a priceless painting that was stolen. Prince has set up a ransom exchange to get the painting back and hires Spenser for protection during the meeting. As with most of his clients, Spenser doesn’t like Prince much and thinks something smells rotten about the whole set-up, but he takes the job. When the exchange goes badly, Spenser feels responsible and tries to untangle a mystery that involves stolen art that goes back to World War II.

While I long ago accepted that Parker would never match his earlier books in the Spenser series in terms of quality, this one marks a vast improvement over the later books that had gotten repetitive and bogged down with the dreaded S+S=S (Spenser+Susan=Smug) factor that had dominated the stories for years.

Parker had shown signs of trying to mix things up with the last couple of Spenser books, but hadn’t entirely gotten free of his bad habits. In this one, with an interesting mystery and worthy adversaries that take the tension level up a notch, Spenser breaks out of the rut he’d been stuck in .

There’s still a bit too much of the cutsie-pie Susan stuff, but this finally felt like Spenser was really engaged in a case instead of just going through the motions until he could meet her for dinner. Sadly, Hawk doesn’t make an appearance in this one since he’s up to some kind of mischief in Central Asia, but his absence doesn’t hurt the overall story at all.

Hopefully, Parker kept this trend going for the final book and fans will get to end the series on a high note.

Next up: Robert B. Parker writes his last Spenser story in Sixkill.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Nathan Wow, I'm shocked; thought it would be bad. U said everything after catskills eagle was crap.

Kemper Nathan wrote: "Wow, I'm shocked; thought it would be bad. U said everything after catskills eagle was crap."

I'm a little shocked too, but I had seen some positive signs in Rough Weather and The Professional so there'd been some improvent in the last few books.

And actually, I didn't say everything after CE was crap. I consider CE the peak, then there's a period of Still OK But Past His Prime Spense. There's actually some good ones there like Taming a Sea Horse, Pale Kings & Princes, and Pastime. Paper Doll is where I consider the true Sad Decline of Spenser to begin.

Nathan I think there's still 1 or 2 more coming

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