Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Adventures of Spenser When He was a Boy

You think I'd learn to never count Robert B. Parker out. On the very day that I told Cliff that I thought Parker had too many irons in the fire and had phoned in his last couple of Spenser books, I sat down to read Chasing the Bear, a young adult novel expanding on some of the stories about Spenser's childhood that he has told his girlfriend Susan Silverman in the regular series.
It's a little gem of a book, tightly plotted and well told. 14 Year old Spenser is being raised by his father and two uncles. The uncles are his mother's brothers. Spenser's mom died in childbirth. One of Spenser's school friends has an abusive father who is something of a town bully. The girl's mother and father are divorced and one day the father, drunk and dangerous, kidnaps his daughter. Spenser happens to be in town when the father drives by on his way to the river. The girl presses her face against the window glass, silently mouthing "Help me. Help me."
Knowing that the father keeps a series of "hide out" shacks along the river, Spenser realizes that if he loses sight of his friend he will never find her, and so he sets out to follow the dangerous father and look for a chance to free her. What follows is a suspenseful yet believable adventure. Spenser, something of a Superman in the adult series, doesn't do anything a 14 year old kid couldn't do and in the end it is his wits that save him.
The book has a couple of other side plots and while written for a younger audience, is certainly enjoyable for readers of the Spenser series. Next up from Parker is Brimstone, the third volume in the Appaloosa Western trilogy. I'll probably wait a bit on that one, just in case it's a phone in, but with any luck, Parker will surprise me yet again.

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