Review

Hugger Mugger : A Spenser Novel

by Robert B. Parker

This
is going to be a little hard to believe, but it has been almost 30
years since Robert B. Parker dropped Spenser, the world's most
self-satisfied private investigator, on an unsuspecting literary
public. I read my first one --- I believe it was THE JUDAS GOAT ---
in the late 1970s, and spent the next several weeks catching up on
the earlier and later volumes and then impatiently waiting for the
next. And the next. Along the way, Parker has introduced an
unforgettable cast of supporting characters: the dangerous,
mysterious Hawk; the beautiful, omnipresent Susan, and the
occasionally interesting Paul. But Spenser is the focus of the
books, and, as Parker has commented, he will continue to write his
novels of the Boston-based Spenser as long as people want to read
them. If Parker stays good to his word, then based on HUGGER
MUGGER, and the volumes that have preceded it, we will be reading
Spenser novels well into the 21st Century.

HUGGER MUGGER takes Spenser out of Boston and into Georgia at the
request of Walter Clive, the owner of Three Fillies Stables.
Someone has been shooting at Clive's horses; he is concerned that
Hugger Mugger, who is felt to have the potential to be the next
Secretariat, will be the next victim. Spenser is basically on his
own on this one, with no Hawk, and Susan home in Boston. He is,
however, more than up to the task of determining what is going on,
even if he isn't always aware of it. Spenser is tenacious,
observant and, above all, witty.  

There are no real surprises here --- what a disappointment if there
were! The emphasis here is not on plot, or on action, but on
dialogue; and nobody writing in the genre today is better at this
than Parker. Parker is so good at this, in fact, that the other
gifts which he brings to the table too often regrettably go
unnoticed. There is a temptation to jump over the story in order to
get to Spenser's next remark, and, indeed, Parker's spare prose
unintentionally facilitates this. This temptation is best avoided,
as the reader will otherwise miss some real narrative
gems.  

During his investigation in HUGGER MUGGER, for example, Spenser
travels to San Francisco to interview Walter Clive's estranged
wife. Parker, through Spenser's eyes, offers a view of The City
which in twelve concise lines of prose not only describes San
Francisco but also lets the reader imbibe of its beauty and
contradictions. There are many writers who can do this in a page or
fifty; I offhand cannot think of any, other than Parker, who can do
it in twelve lines.

Parker and his complex, irrepressible Spenser have been with us for
30-odd novels now, for almost 30 years. He was influenced by
Raymond Chandler and is now, himself, an influence on others and an
institution unto himself. Long may he run.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Hugger Mugger : A Spenser Novel
by Robert B. Parker

  • Publication Date: April 3, 2000
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399145877
  • ISBN-13: 9780399145872