Is there any doubt, anywhere at all, that Robert Parker is building, brick by brick, the American detective series with his Spenser novels? A feat that will ultimately stand unchallenged for all time? Yes, I know, I know, that's quite a claim. Yet each year Parker releases to his ever-growing legion of the faithful a new Spenser novel, each of which contains some of his best writing. The fact that each novel contains the same elements that made its predecessors so wonderful --- the finely drawn personalities, the crisp dialogue, the sparse yet wonderfully descriptive prose --- is irrelevant, as is any argument that Parker repeats his own tricks. What is relevant is that he continues to draw fresh, sparkling water from the same well. It is not an issue of "how well the bear dances, as long as he dances at all," either. This bear can pirouette, do splits, jumps, and dips, and constantly invent new variations on a theme, so that veteran readers feel comfortable and stay interested, while new readers are compelled to read what has gone before.
All of the above applies to POTSHOT, Parker's 30th or so Spenser novel. POTSHOT removes Spenser from his familiar Boston environs to Potshot, Arizona, a small resort town where a businessman has been murdered. Spenser has been retained by Mary Lou Buckman, the widow of the deceased. All suspicion for the murder is cast upon a gang of lowlifes living near Potshot who have been extorting money from the townspeople. The gang, led by a mysterious figure known only as The Preacher, seems to hold the police department helpless and the town in terror.
While Spenser is known as well for his self-confidence as for his lighthearted repartee, he also knows when to seek assistance. This is one of those times; Spenser not only calls upon the redoubtable Hawk, but also upon a group of past associates who will have longtime readers scrambling to past novels to refresh their collective recollection. As Spenser and company begin turning over rocks and tumbleweeds, they soon discover that all is not as it seems, and what appears to be a local problem has roots that stretch as far as southern California.
Parker continues to amaze and delight, demonstrating with POTSHOT that he can continue to keep a veteran character fresh and relevant for new and old readers alike and will undoubtedly continue to do so well into the new century.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 4, 2002