Recap: Not a new book, not a new author, and not a new character, but still the same old awesomeness. Robert B. Parker’s Painted Ladies follows the next case in the long list of those covered by Spenser, a private detective from Boston. In his latest triumph, Spenser works as a bodyguard for Ashton Prince — a world-renowned art expert — as he attempts to give a criminal ransom money for a stolen painting. But Prince is killed, and Spenser –unable to accept failure — seeks to find out who killed Prince and why.
Spenser works to solve the mystery with the help of his buddies in the Boston Police. They quickly find themselves stuck in a complicated case concerning paintings, daddy abandonment issues, and the Holocaust. Along the way, Spenser discovers Ashton Prince is a Jewish man with relatives who were murdered by the Nazis during WWII. But he must determine if this stolen painting case dates back that far or not.
Analysis: As a newcomer to Robert B. Parker’s prolific detective fiction, I didn’t know what I was getting into. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that Parker’s fast-paced storytelling and quick-witted dialogue are his best literary assets. The dialogue is snappy and had me laughing out loud at parts. I’m always impressed by an author who can describe a character without having to write a set “description paragraph.”
His dialogue also works well to describe the relationships between people — like that of Spenser and his long-time girlfriend, Susan. From their conversations, we see what a charmer Spenser is and how much these two characters really love each other — despite their decision not to live together.
Susan’s role in this particular story is also fairly relevant, as Spenser questions her about her Jewish background in regards to the Holocaust parts of his case.
One important thing to note is that this was the last book Parker published before he passed away — his last (not counting posthumous) publication of roughly 40 books in The Spenser Series. 40! To have readers turning pages after 40 books with the same character is highly commendable.
MVP: Spenser — no first name. Spenser is undeniably smart and suave — in the same way many detectives in these novels are. But more importantly, he’s likable, which isn’t always the case in this kind of story. Often the good-looking, smart detective comes across as snooty. But Spenser is the kind of guy I’d like to grab a beer with at a bar. And that’s pretty great.
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