PAINTED LADIES By Robert B. Parker [Review]


Robert B. Parker’s latest (and sadly last) novel, Painted Ladies, is a strong addition to the Spenser series. The book, featuring the Boston PI that made Parker famous is also full of the other characters long time readers have come to know and love, Susan, Pearl the dog, Frank Belson, the list goes on.

The case for Painted Ladies starts out simply enough. Spenser is hired for what seems to be a simple to-the-point ransom exchange. Money for stolen art. Easy, right? Well, no, of course not, this is Spenser, after all and nothing is ever quite as easy as it seems. When his client, Dr. Ashton Prince, is murdered the case takes on a more personal quest and Spenser sets out to solve with all the energy of Pearl after a cinnamon doughnut. His investigation takes him into unexpected areas and leaves him questioning everyone and everything before the final resolution.

The amazing thing about Parker is he can take what is really a fairly simple detective novel and raise it to a whole new level. He really does (or can) make the reader stop and think. Spenser takes the time to dig into the depths of the psyche for answers and Parker never pulls a punch as he goes there—whether it is in dealing with the “bad guy’s” motivation or those of his main characters. It is this that has always made his books more than a hard-boiled detective novel and raised them far above the rest of the genre.

Parker also takes on hard issues, current issues and brings them to a personal level. Suddenly things are no longer happening to “someone else” they are people we know, because of the characters in the book and our involvement with them. Over the years his books have dealt with racism and sexism, gang violence and homophobia. The thing about Spenser, is he never just takes things at face value or accepts that something is good or bad because he is told to, in fact that is usually where he gets into trouble. Painted Ladies is no exception to this rule.

Painted Ladies is full of the wit, banter and thoughtfulness that readers have come to expect from Spenser. The characters shine and even the little side story of Pearl the dog and her “love” would be too cute from someone else, but Parker pulled it off wonderfully well. I will say there was a little something lacking, I’m not even quite sure what it was. A little grit? Violence? Noir? I’m not sure what, but it’s kind of like a dish lacking a little salt, not enough to ruin it by any means, but enough so you notice. However, that is not enough to stop me from recommending this book wholeheartedly.

Robert B. Parker, simply put, was one of the greatest writers of our times. I know that sounds a little dramatic, but it’s true, and the loss of Parker has left a hole in the literary world that will be felt for years to come.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars | Publisher: Putnam | Pages: 304 | Buy on Amazon

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