Johnny's Reviews > Mortal Stakes

Mortal Stakes by Robert B. Parker
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's review
Mar 23, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: mystery
Read in March, 2009

Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’sakes.
--Robert Frost

That’s the frontispiece for Robert B. Parker’s Mortal Stakes, an early entry in the famed Spenser series that I hadn’t read until this week. From the moment I opened the cover and read that verse from Robert Frost, I was hooked. Then, as I read this investigation of possible blackmail and game fixing surrounding a Boston Red Sox player (albeit a fictional player), I was drawn into a fascinating story that simply didn’t play out according to my expectations. Further, I wasn’t expecting a discussion of ethics as the mystery played out. So, I rate this above other Spenser books that I’ve read.

Spenser is always a cathartic release for me because he’s tough (where I’m not), he ingests and imbibes prodigiously (where I can’t), he’s disciplined enough to work out regularly (where I don’t), he handles a gun with tremendous proficiency (does using a muzzle-loader that has a ball that bounces off aluminum cans, count?), and has sparkling dialogue no matter what the situation (and I wish I did). In short, I like being able to crawl into his skin at little or no risk. And, when he’s hanging around the world of baseball, I like it even more.

Unlike most mysteries, Mortal Stakes doesn’t involve murder. The mystery is more subtle than that. And, even though the person behind the situation (let’s just say that Pete Rose would understand the plot) seemed to be tipped off relatively early, the resolution of the situation wasn’t exactly what I wanted or Spenser expected. To me, that makes a mystery well worth reading. And, if I happen to end up ruminating about my one and only experience of watching a game in Fenway Park and feel like I’ve walked across the same plaza in Boston more than once (Copley Plaza, in front of Trinity Church) where Spenser takes one of his walks, that’s all the better.

I started reading books later in the Spenser series and recently had a treasure-trove of early Spenser paperbacks put into my hands. I find myself liking the character better all the time. And when I read this book, I knew why the series became so successful.
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02/02/2016 marked as: read

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