Sudden Mischief: a Spenser Novel
Spenser is back. This is the 25th book in the Spenser series
and, like his ageless hero, Robert B. Parker shows no sign of
growing old. But after so many books, one must ask whether a
character can remain fresh in the minds of his readers. On the
heels of one of the better books in the series, SMALL VICES, one
can't help but think that fortunately, yes he can.
Parker continues to write witty, fresh dialogue. There is a
comfortable ease in the interplay between Spenser and Hawk. Parker
makes this installment even fresher by focusing attention on
Spenser's girlfriend, Susan Silverman. A skeleton in the form of an
ex-husband, Brad Sterling, crawls out of the closet and a past that
Susan would rather forget comes rushing into plain view.
Brad finds himself in a fix --- he's being sued for sexual
harrassment --- and he comes to his ex-wife for help. Susan asks
Spenser to look into it. But Spenser finds Sterling uncooperative
and some unsettling truths begin to emerge in the midst of
Spenser's investigation when two bodies show up and Brad
A charitable fundraiser, unrealized monies, and the
none-too-surprising presence of the mob are all part of a plot that
plays second-fiddle to what's happening between Spenser and
Susan. Parker has always been good at shining a light
into the dark recesses and the psychological motivations of his
characters. In SUDDEN MISCHIEF, Susan must face some hard truths
about her attraction to Spenser, to the other men in her life, and
about her relationship with her father.
Although he plays a very minor role, Hawk's presence here is one of
the bright spots. Hawk and Spenser, in their rather macho,
politically incorrect way, are always a source of entertainment and
provide some much needed levity to offset the rest of this dark
There can be some danger in shifting the focus of a long-running
series. Move too far away and an author can alienate his audience.
Fail to play a new card or two and predictability results. What
emerges in SUDDEN MISCHIEF is a Spenser book that rates neither
with the best or worst of the series. The action here is more
cerebral than physical. Parker's agile use of his writer's scalpel
to peel back the layers of familiarity exposes a deeper side of his
characters. This time out, those little slices hurt so good.
---Reviewed by Vern Wiessner