That’s exactly what this book feels like…Robert B. Parker’s spare change, the nearly worthless stuff in his pocket that gets tossed in a jar and forgotten.
Sunny Randall is usually Parker on aut0-pilot…and SPARE CHANGE is no exception, except that it may set a new low for him (something I thought the last Sunny book did). In this book, Sunny goes after a run-of-the-mill serial killer. Parker doesn’t have a fresh take on the subject, the investigation is dull and Sunny, and all the cops around her, behave like imbeciles. The climax is predictable, perfunctory, and makes Sunny unbelievably stupid. As if that wasn’t disappointing enough, Parker tacks on a totally unnecessary and laughably ridiculous "Irving-the-Explainer" at the end. Did he mean it to be funny? I don’t think so.
It’s a truly terrible book. It has none of Parker’s snappy dialogue…it reads more like someone trying to imitate Parker rather than something by Parker himself. If Parker’s name wasn’t on it, I doubt it would be the bestseller that it’s bound to be.
Actually, this feels like a half-assed Spenser, only without Spenser and Hawk. All of Spenser’s other regulars are on stage — Belson, Quirk, Healy, even the irritating Susan Silverman. Spenser isn’t around to moon over Susan, so Sunny does it for him. She even rambles on and on and on about her dog, the way Spenser does.
I’ve completely run out of patience with Parker’s fascination with his heroes and their relationship with their dogs. Spenser, Stone, and Sunny all have dogs that they treat like their children and spend endless amounts of time (and pages) thinking about and talking about.
Any time Parker starts talking about the dogs, I skip pages…something I rarely do when reading a book. But if you skip all the yammering about dogs, that only leaves about 20,000 words of story, so the book goes by pretty fast.
This makes the third or fourth Parker stinker in a row…so I’m asking myself why I keep bothering to buy, and read, Parker’s books. Is it my affection for his early work? For the impact he’s had on my writing and my career (my first two script sales were to SPENSER FOR HIRE). Usually when I get to this point, he surprises me by coming out with a great novel — an APPALOOSA or a DOUBLE PLAY or an early Stone — and wins me over anew. Because when Parker is in top form, he’s terrific. I guess that’s what keeps me buying.
I hope the next Parker book is that great one… it’s long overdue.
UPDATE: It turns out I’m not the only disappointed Parker fan who decided to blog about SPARE CHANGE today…so did my buddy Bill Crider.
I can’t resist sharing a SPOILER after the jump:
SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!
To give you an example of just how stupid this book is, the serial killer keeps an address book on his desk…and in that address book, he includes the address and phone number of his super secret serial killer hide-out and lists it under the name of his super secret serial killer identity…a Mexican bandito who wears an enormous Sombrero. I kid you not. And yes, in the super secret serial killer hide-out he keeps newspaper clippings about his murders, pictures of his victims, and pictures of Sunny Randall.