Kemper's Reviews > Early Autumn

Early Autumn by Robert B. Parker
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's review
Jul 02, 2008

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

Spenser gets another peach of a client in this one. Patty Giacomin hires him to get her son, Paul, back from her husband, Mel. Patty and Mel had a nasty divorce, and they’ve made a game out of trying to keep Paul away from each other.

Spenser doesn’t have much trouble finding the kid but is disturbed by the fifteen year old boy who is suffering from an odd form of neglect. He isn’t abused, but since both of the parents are pieces of shit, Paul has been ignored and never taught about much of anything. He's a lump with no interests and his only skill is watching TV. (This was written in 1981 so if it’d been published recently, I’m sure Paul would have spent all day on X-Box Live.)

Spenser gets stuck in the middle of Patty and Mel’s game of keep-away with their kid, and ends up doing extended baby-sitter duty. Spenser starts to teach the kid how to work out, to read books instead of watching TV constantly and how to build a house, all in an effort to help the kid develop some self-esteem and independence. Just as Paul is starting to learn some things and get some confidence, Patty and Mel declare a cease fire and want the boy returned. Spenser refuses to send Paul back to a life of being ignored and begins a risky plan to pry Paul free from his crappy parents forever.

Parker was in his prime of delivering off-beat plots for Spenser during this period, and this one walks a very fine line between Spenser going to extraordinary lengths to protect a kid versus Spenser just being an outright kidnapper. Yes, they’re terrible parents, but they aren’t abusive or physically neglectful. Once Spenser decides that they're unfit to care for Paul, he has no problem with taking him away from them. While almost anyone would agree with what he does, Spenser would probably have a hard time justifying it in court.

Another odd thing in this one is the way that Susan acts. She instantly resents all the time that Spenser spends with Paul, thinks that Spenser is doing something very stupid, and she is just generally bitchtacular for the entire book. This actually ends up being the early warning signs of the issues that are looming in future books for them, but Susan comes across as extraordinarily selfish in this.

Next up: Spenser FAIL in A Savage Place.
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