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Mystery author #29 Robert B. Parker

Book 1:

Title: Stone Cold
Series detective: Jesse Stone
No. in series: 4
Year of publication: 2003
Type of mystery: Serial murder, rape
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Massachusetts, USA, late 20th or early 21st century

Story: Two serial killers are operating in Stone's territory and when they target his former girlfriend the case turns personal. He also gives personal attention to the case of a teenage girl who has been gang-raped.

Book 2:

Title: The Judas Goat
Series detective: Spenser
No. in series: 5
Year of publication: 1978
Type of mystery: Murder, terrorism
Type of investigator: Private detective
Setting & time: USA (scene setting), England (London), Denmark (Copenhagen), The Netherlands (Amsterdam), Canada (Montreal), 1970s

Story: Tough P.I. Spenser is hired to headhunt a group of terrorists whose bombing of a London restaurant wiped out the family of an American billionaire and left him paralysed. In prison or in the morgue, the man doesn't care just if they are punished. The hunt takes Spenser to London, where he finds the first lead, and then on to Copenhagen and Amsterdam, ending at the Montreal Olympic games.

Review: Neither of the two Parker books I read is really a mystery, but rather they are detective novels with more or less known offenders – certainly known to the reader and soon to the detectives as well. Stone's investigation is more about proving that his suspects are the killers he thinks they are and Spenser's investigation is about stopping the bad guys, not finding out who they are. But since both are rather good examples of detective fiction I think I may be excused for including them. And maybe I just didn't pick the right novels – it certainly looks like the Spenser novel I have just started reading is going to be one.

Parker writes in short, concise sentences that make his narrative style clipped and fast moving, although it does slow down the action whenever Spenser starts describing people and the clothes they wear.

The earlier novel is written in the first person, with Spenser as the narrator (as are, I think, all the books in that series), while the second is written in the third person, alternating between several characters. While the same short, clipped style is used in both, the choices of narrative angle serve to make the reader react differently to the two lead characters. The first person narrative, being more personal, tends to bring a reader closer to the main character and make him more sympathetic, which is certainly needed in the case of Spenser, and I think his preoccupation with clothes and what people are wearing is a narrative trick used to give him some human interest (although it sometimes seems it is only being used to pad the narrative…), much as his tender feeling for his girlfriend Susan are. The third person narrative that is used in the Jesse Stone story makes it possible for the reader to react to more characters, and also to separate the two series enough that no-one can confuse the two lead characters. (End of literary analysis and comparison).

It took me several months to finish the Jesse Stone novel. While I found it interesting, it somehow failed to hold my attention for long until I was well into the second half of it. Neither did I feel any need to devour the Spenser novel in one sitting, but I will say that they are both well-told stories with an interesting rather than gripping narrative style. I don't think I will start glomming Parker's books on the basis of these two, but I will certainly read more when and if they come my way.

Rating: 3 stars.


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