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Friday, October 22, 2010

Painted Ladies by Robert B. Parker

Painted Ladies is Robert B. Parker's latest offering in the long-running Spenser series. Parker died in January 2010 and this book was already in the pipeline waiting to be published (he has one more coming out called Sixkill). According to my count, this is number 37 in the Spenser series.

Painted Ladies is a solid novel. It is nowhere near as good as the best of the series (in my opinion, that would be Looking for Rachel Wallace and the ones created at about the same time in the late 1970s and early 1980s) but it is not an embarassment like Potshot, either.

The plot revolves around the theft of a piece of art called Lady with a Finch. Someone has called with an offer to return the painting for a ransom and Spenser is hired to protect Ashton Prince, the art expert who will deliver the ransom to the kidnappers during the exchange. Spenser ultimately fails as a bodyguard as the painting is booby-trapped with a bomb and Ashton Prince is vaporized right in front of Spenser as he waits in their car on page 13.

The bulk of the book is about Spenser and his decision to find out who killed Prince and why. No one from Prince's side of things is particularly interested in his offer to investigate, although, for a change, the police are. All of Spenser's police friends  (Quirk, Belson, Healy, etc.) are in this, but Hawk is not (he is purported to be in Central Asia working for the government).

Robert B. Parker
The story itself unfolds the way most Spenser novels do - Spenser starts pulling at loose threads in the investigation until he angers someone and they lash out at him and then he figures he's onto something and has a new course of investigation.

It is an enjoyable book - Spenser is slowing down a bit but the investigation is still interesting. There's at least one more book coming out - hopefully it's as solid as this one. While not as great as his best, it is solid and nothing to be ashamed of.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on October 22, 2010.

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